President Barack Obama asked Congress for an emergency $3.7 billion to contain the surge of illegal Central American immigrants, many of them unaccompanied children, crossing into the U.S. from Mexico.
The money would increase detainment and court capacity to speed decisions, while expanding law enforcement and prosecution of the criminal networks that smuggle people over the border. The administration would also improve the temporary housing and care for immigrants while their cases are judged.
“Without supplemental funding,” the administration said in a fact sheet released today, “agencies will not have sufficient resources to adequately address this situation.”
More than 52,000 unaccompanied children were apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border from Oct. 1 through June 15, about double the total in a similar period a year earlier, U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported.
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Most of the children are smuggled through Central America and Mexico, according to the White House.
The $3.7 billion request covers four areas: deterrence, enforcement, foreign assistance and capacity – paying for the detention, care and transportation of children already in the U.S. The supplemental appropriation request also will include $615 million for the Agriculture Department for wildfire suppression.
Almost half of the $3.7 billion for the immigration effort – $1.8 billion – would go to the Department of Health and Human Services to provide care for unaccompanied children and refugees already here, a provision likely to draw controversy from congressional Republicans who argue the president has not been aggressive enough about border security or deportations.
The White House fact sheet said that overall apprehension rates at the southwest U.S. border are at “near historic lows” even as apprehensions of unaccompanied minors has swelled.
The Department of Homeland Security would use $1.1 billion of the total to increase detention space for children and adults that meets “legal and humanitarian standards” and to ensure “protection of asylum seekers and refugees while enabling the prompt removal of individuals who do not qualify for asylum” or other relief.
The supplemental request also follows visits in recent weeks by Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry to meet with leaders from countries where the child immigration trend is most acute – El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico.
The fact sheet said the administration is committing resources to boost those countries’ capacity to “receive and reintegrate returned individuals and address the underlying security and economic issues that cause migration.”