Two lawmakers Thursday introduced a bipartisan bill requiring the Department of Homeland Security to establish a plan to manage the surge of migrants at the southern border and activate access to $1 billion in funding.
The Border Surge Response and Resilience Act from Reps. John Katko, R-N.Y., and Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, mandates that DHS outline specific numbers and situations that would trigger a response plan.
Once the plan is activated, DHS could pull $1 billion from the Migration Surge Border Response Fund as needed — eliminating a need to reallocate its own budget to pay for food, transportation or first aid for the increasing number of migrants.
”When a natural disaster strikes, there’s a process in place to respond and tap into funds to provide relief and ensure the situation is addressed. This bill requires a similar agile Federal response for border surges,” the pair said in a statement.
”Building on recommendations from the Homeland Security Advisory Council (HSAC), the fund would allow DHS to address immediate resourcing needs when a humanitarian crisis develops at the border so the Department doesn’t have to reprogram money from security priorities to fund food, clothing, blankets, transportation, and other resources that are being depleted.”
Kato noted that ”after hearing firsthand from border patrol agents, it’s clear they need interagency backup and accountability across the Federal Government to appropriately handle border surges.”
The move comes as concerns escalate on both sides of the aisle that the current surge of migrants may lead to a humanitarian crisis.
”Agents and officers on the frontlines are suffering through another crisis, in the midst of a global pandemic, and some still haven’t been vaccinated,” Kato said. ”We need greater confidence that the Federal Government can manage these crises going forward. This bill would do just that.”
Cuellar called it ”critical” that DHS be ”proactive” and develop a strategy to manage the migration flows.
”This bipartisan legislation will allow the federal government to employ a whole-of-government approach to create a response framework that anticipates migration surges, allowing them to quickly shift resources and take immediate action to mitigate a humanitarian crisis,” he said.
According to the lawmakers, U.S. Customs and Border Protection is encountering more than 3,500 migrants, on average, per day, ”which is rapidly approaching levels seen at the height of the 2019 surge.”
”These numbers are especially alarming given that CBP and Immigration and Customs Enforcement holding and processing facilities are operating at less than 30% capacity due to COVID-19 constraints,” they said, resulting in unaccompanied minorsbeing held in CBP custody for longer than legal requirements.
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