Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan told lawmakers Tuesday that the White House is planning to send Congress a supplemental funding request this week to address the high volume of migrants arriving at the southern border.
“The supplemental funding request will address critical humanitarian requirements and help ensure that the crisis is managed in an operationally effective, humane and safe manner,” McAleenan said.
McAleenan told lawmakers on the House Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee that some of the funding will help Customs and Border Protection set up temporary and semi-permanent migrant processing facilities at the southern border to ensure families and children receive timely and appropriate medical attention, food and temporary shelter.
The funding would also help enhance operations and upgrade the government’s information technology systems at the border to ensure officers are processing migrants accurately and quickly.
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Already in the president’s fiscal 2020 budget, Homeland Security is requesting $192 million to hire 750 new Border Patrol agents and 273 Customs and Border Protection officers, McAleenan said. The administration is also requesting $523 million for humanitarian relief at the border and $5 billion to construct the border wall. The supplemental would add to that.
The acting Homeland Security secretary noted the administration also plans to send Congress a legislative proposal soon to address the key driving factors of the humanitarian crisis.
Democrats and Republicans on the committee agreed both parties need to come together to address the situation.
“It truly is a crisis in many ways and is an impossible task almost that we are asking you to deal with and if we want improvements and changes then, in my opinion, it is up to us as Congress to provide you with those resources and policies necessary for you to carry out this impossible job,” said Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash.
But some Democrats argued President Donald Trump needs to focus less on building a border wall and more on ensuring the safety and well-being of migrants arriving at the border.
“I wish our president would stop using this issue of the wall and the perception that everyone coming in are criminals or are causing problems,” said Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Md. “We need reorganization on how we are dealing with immigration. Not only laws but also how to deal with what we really need. We need a thousand more judges, we need more people focusing on where we need to go and we need better equipment.”
The Trump administration has repeatedly highlighted the increasing volume of apprehensions at the southwest border in recent months and has implemented a number of policies to deter migrants from making the journey. Data from the Department of Homeland Security shows there has been a dramatic increase in the number of families and unaccompanied minors coming to the border from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. In March alone, more than 100,000 individuals were apprehended at the border, including 53,077 family units and 8,975 unaccompanied minors.
In addition to the White House requesting additional funding to handle the situation, Trump signed a memorandum Monday to change asylum policies in an attempt to “protect the integrity of our asylum system and respond to the humanitarian and security crisis at our border.”
The memorandum includes measures that would charge fees to individuals applying for asylum in the U.S. and fees for asylum seekers to receive work authorizations. The memorandum also requires immigration courts to adjudicate asylum claims within 180 days.
Some Democrats assailed the memorandum at the hearing, calling it “another tragic step in the wrong direction.”
“Addressing the humanitarian crises, in the short term, is in part a resource challenge. But it is also a challenge that requires a commitment by your department to respect the rights of immigrants and to treat them humanely,” said Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif., chairwoman of the subcommittee. “Simply making it harder to claim asylum in the United States is not the answer.”