The White House asked Congress Tuesday for $3.7 billion in extra funding to address the humanitarian crisis of unaccompanied children and families entering the US.
Some of the money would be used to increase border security. But most of it would go toward housing and processing for children and families who are already here, to ensure they can move quickly through deportation proceedings.
The administration's request includes money for every stage of the process: from apprehension and screening by Border Patrol, to temporary housing under HHS or detention by ICE, to immigration court proceedings, to "reintegration" after deportation. Here's how it breaks down:
$68.4 million to increase border security
The need for more border security isn't because children and families are sneaking in unnoticed — they're not trying to.
But the current crisis has overburdened every part of the government that deals with unaccompanied children, and since Border Patrol is the first government agency to come into contact with them, it's bearing the brunt of the overload. Border Patrol agents are concerned that they're spending too much time processing and supervising immigrant children, rather than patrolling.
The administration's request would fund 16 new crews for aerial surveillance drones along the border, to be there when agents can't. It would also give some money to Border Patrol for inter-agency cooperation and information sharing.
$364 million for temporary housing and screening of children and families by Border Patrol agents
Unaccompanied children are supposed to spend up to 72 hours in Border Patrol custody, but with the current overload, they're often spending much longer in temporary holding facilities. Some of this money would go to overtime for Border Patrol agents, while some would go to facilities or medical costs.
$1.8 billion for long-term housing for children under the Department of Health and Human Services
HHS' Office of Refugee Resettlement is responsible for securing long-term care for unaccompanied children while their cases make their way through immigration court. It's been overloaded for years, with many times more children it needs to house than it has beds available. (This is why children are now being kept in makeshift facilities on military bases, for example.) The administration wants an extra $1.8 billion for HHS — the bulk of its funding request — so that it can find sustainable housing for the children who have already been apprehended, while their cases make their way through court. Having sufficient resources would also help keep HHS from having to release children to relatives without doing background checks.
$879 million to detain, prosecute, and deport migrant parents
The administration announced two weeks ago that it would start detaining most of the families apprehended at the border, and is racing to open facilities for family detention. This request includes $879 million to Immigration and Customs Enforcement for family detention, as well as alternatives to detention (such as ankle-bracelet monitoring). That money also includes funding for "prosecution capacity" in immigration court.
$64 million for quicker court cases for children and families
Under current law, all children, and most families, who are apprehended at the border need to go before an immigration judge before the government can deport them. But immigration judges have years-long backlogs, so it can take months or years for a case to be completed.
The administration wants to speed up the deportation court process. In this request, they ask for 40 new "immigration judge teams, for a 20 percent increase in the number of judges able to take cases.
The request also includes $15 million for legal representation for unaccompanied children — something that experts agree is very important to ensuring that kids understand the legal process and show up for their court dates. (In addition to the $64 million for the Department of Justice, the request includes $116 million to Immigration and Customs Enforcement for transportation of unaccompanied children.)
$295 million to reintegrate deportees and address root causes in Central America
The request would cover "efforts to repatriate and reintegrate" migrants after they're deported, support for Central American border security, and efforts to help address the root causes of the crisis — such as the violence driving children and families out of Central America to countries around the region.
$5 million for a media campaign telling families not to come to the US
Both the administration and its critics tend to claim that migrants are coming to the US because they're confused about US immigration law, and the administration has repeatedly made efforts to clear up that confusion by telling families that it is dangerous to come to the US and that they will not get legal status when they arrive. Now, their request includes $5 million to make that case in Mexico and Central America.