Congress Passes Emergency Border Supplemental Border Package
By Preston Huennekens | June 28, 2019
On Thursday, the House agreed to a bipartisan Senate bill that provides $4.6 billion in emergency humanitarian funding at the border. President Trump requested supplemental funding in May, noting that the humanitarian and security crisis at the border had drained the resources of agencies tasked to address the catastrophe. The bill, however, is much different than his request.
A majority of the money goes to continue funding the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which is primarily responsible for the care of unaccompanied alien children (UACs). This money goes towards basic items such as food, medicine, and shelter improvements, while remaining funds are directed to finance new immigration judges, back pay for employees and other needs. The bill has notable shortcomings.
A major omission in the supplemental is the lack of additional bed space for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The Trump administration initially requested $300 million to expand ICE’s detention capacity from 42,774 beds to between 51,300 and 54,000 beds. A lack of detention space ensures that catch-and-release will continue unabated.
The Senate supplemental authorizes $10 million more for the Legal Orientation Program, a government-sponsored platform that educates aliens about the immigration court system. This program contracts out to non-profits – some of whom are pro-immigration activists – to provide these services.
While the final amount of emergency funding is equal to the Trump administration’s request, the supplemental deviates on some key components, such as not including funding for additional detention space and border security. This deficiency is likely to ensure the current flow of migrants to our southern border remains at present levels or even increases. Until Congress passes legislation that closes our asylum loopholes, migrants will continue arriving by the thousands at our southern border, confident in the fact that they will be quickly processed and released into the interior of the United States.
Politically speaking, this bill revealed deep divisions within the House Democratic caucus. The Senate passed the bill in an overwhelming display of bipartisanship, earning 84 votes. The House, meanwhile, attempted to pass an entirely separate proposal loaded with poison pills including a de facto amnesty of all family units and UACs. But facing outright revolt from moderate members of her party, Speaker Nancy Pelosi agreed to pull the radical bill and instead pass the milder Senate version.
This level of political warfare over an emergency spending bill does not bode well for future legislative reform of our country’s broken immigration system. But unfortunately, only Congress can plug our asylum loopholes and stop incentivizing the mass migration of people from Central America looking to claim asylum. This money was desperately needed to fulfill our humanitarian obligations to those migrants in our care, but it does nothing to address the root cause of the issue.