Obama requests $3.7 billion to deal with border surge

President Obama has sent Congress a request for $3.7 billion in emergency funding to help deal with a recent surge of children and adults from Central America - almost half of that would go to the Department of Health and Human Services to deal with the care and detention of what officials call "Unaccompanied Alien Children."

The figures break down like this:

+ $1.8 billion for the Department of Health and Human Services

+ $1.1 billion for Immigration and Customs Enforcement

+ $434 million for the Border Patrol

+ $300 million for the State Department

+ $64 million for the Justice Department

Here is part of the news release sent to reporters by the White House, which at the end raises the specter of the Border Patrol doing "child care" duties:

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The Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement - $1.1 billion

This proposal would provide the Department of Homeland Security a total of $1.1 billion for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).  Of this total:

  • $116 million would pay for transportation costs associated with the significant rise in apprehensions of unaccompanied children;
  • $109 million would provide for immigration and customs enforcement efforts, including expanding the Border Enforcement Security Task Force program, doubling the size of vetted units in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, and expanding investigatory activities by ICE Homeland Security Investigations; and
  • $879 million would pay for detention and removal of apprehended undocumented adults traveling with children, expansion of alternatives to detention programs for these individuals, and additional prosecution capacity for adults with children who cross the border unlawfully.

The Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection - $433 million

This proposal would provide the Department of Homeland Security a total of $433 million for Customs and Border Protection (CBP).  Of this total:

  • $364 million would pay for operational costs of responding to the significant rise in apprehensions of unaccompanied children and families, including overtime and temporary duty costs for Border Patrol agents, contract services and facility costs to care for children while in CBP custody, and medical and transportation service arrangements;
  • $29 million for CBP to expand its role in Border Enforcement Security Task Force programs, increasing information-sharing and collaboration among the participating law enforcement agencies combating transnational crime; and
  • $39.4 million to increase air surveillance capabilities that would support 16,526 additional flight hours for border surveillance and 16 additional crews for unmanned aerial systems to improve detection and interdiction of illegal activity.

The Department of Justice - $64 million

This proposal would provide the Department of Justice a total of $64 million.  Of the total:

  • $45.4 million would be to hire approximately 40 additional immigration judge teams, including those anticipated to be hired on a temporary basis.  This funding would also expand courtroom capacity including additional video conferencing and other equipment in support of the additional immigration judge teams.  These additional resources, when combined with the FY 2015 Budget request for 35 additional teams, would provide sufficient capacity to process an additional 55,000 to 75,000 cases annually.
  • $2.5 million would be used to expand the legal orientation program that provides assistance to adults and custodians of children in the immigration court system.
  • $15 million to provide direct legal representation services to children in immigration proceedings.
  • $1.1 million to hire additional immigration litigation attorneys to support Federal agencies involved in detainee admission, regulation, and removal actions.

Department of State and Other International Programs - $300 million

This proposal would provide $300 million to the Department of State. Of the total:

  • $295 million would support efforts to repatriate and reintegrate migrants to Central America, to help the governments in the region better control their borders, and to address the underlying root causes driving migration, i.e. creating the economic, social, governance, and citizen security conditions to address factors that are contributing to significant increases in migration to the United States.  Beyond initial assistance, continued funding for repatriation and reintegration activities will be contingent on sustained progress and cooperation by the Central American countries.
  • $5 million would support State Department media campaigns in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, targeting potential migrants and their families.  The campaigns will emphasize the dangers of the journey, deliver the message that unaccompanied children are not given a permit to stay in the U.S., and highlight a shared community responsibility for the welfare of unaccompanied children.  Funds would also support youth programs to develop skills and leadership among potential migrants.

The Department of Health and Human Services - $1.8 billion

This proposal would provide an additional $1.8 billion for HHS to provide the appropriate care for unaccompanied children, consistent with Federal law, while maintaining services for refugees.  With these funds, HHS will have the resources to be able to care for the children currently projected to come into the custody of the Department of Homeland Security while putting in place more stable, cost-effective arrangements for these children going forward.  The proposal would also support the ongoing HHS medical response activities for unaccompanied children to address the surge at Border Patrol facilities.

Without supplemental funding, absent undertaking extraordinary measures, agencies will not have sufficient resources to adequately address this situation.  HHS will be unable to address the influx of children by securing sufficient shelter capacity with the number of children held at Border Patrol stations continuing to increase, for longer periods of time.  Going forward, HHS will be unable to set-up more stable, cost-effective arrangements for these children, Border Patrol agents will have to be re-assigned to child care duties from their border security work, and ICE will lack the resources needed to sufficiently expand detention and removal capacity for adults with children who cross the border illegally.  In addition, without additional funds, DOJ will be unable to keep pace with its growing caseload, leading to longer wait times for those cases already on the docket. And absent dedicated resources in Central American countries, we will not make progress on the larger drivers of this humanitarian crisis. For these reasons, supplemental resources are urgently needed to continue forward with the aggressive response that the Administration has deployed to date.