In the meantime, the White House continues to order additional resources to handle the influx of children, opening another federal shelter at Fort Sill Military Base in Oklahoma to house at least 600 minors and up to 1,200, according to senior administration officials. Lackland Air Force Base in Texas is already being used to shelter up to 1,000 unaccompanied kids, and up to 575 are being shuttled to California to stay on a naval base in Ventura County.
A top administration official said Monday that some children are still being held in Customs and Border Protection detention facilities for longer than the 72-hour legal limit before being transferred to the Department of Health and Human Services for care, despite the extra shelters.
The surge is happening almost exclusively in the Rio Grande Valley, taxing federal resources there, while other portions of the border “remain unchanged,” the official said.
Because the kids are not always being transferred from Border Patrol custody within three days, the Department of Homeland Security has been trying to ensure they have hot meals and access to shower facilities while they are held in detention facilities, the official said.
The Office of Management and Budget asked Congress this month to kick in an extra $166 million in fiscal 2015 funding for DHS to pay costs such as CBP overtime pay and transportation of the unaccompanied minors, as well as a total of $2.28 billion for the HHS program that provides care for the kids and seeks permanent housing for them.
After criticizing the White House for not calling in its fiscal 2015 budget request for extra money to deal with the influx, House appropriators have included in their fiscal 2015 spending legislation nearly $77 million above the president’s request to help DHS deal with the crisis.
The full House Appropriations Committee is set to vote Wednesday on those spending levels during a markup of its Homeland Security spending bill.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.