Emergency funding for border security is just the first step

Published 8:35 am Monday, July 15, 2019

Immediately before Congress adjourned for Independence Day, the House finally passed the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations for Humanitarian Assistance and Security at the Southern Border Act. It fulfilled the president’s request for much-needed, long-overdue humanitarian aid and funding to agencies securing our border in order to address the overcrowding. This funding could not be more critical.
In total, the emergency supplemental provided $4.59 billion to address the humanitarian crisis. This included nearly $2.9 billion for the Department of Health and Human Services to provide appropriate shelter and care for unaccompanied children. It also included nearly $1.34 billion for the Department of Homeland Security. Specifically, appropriating $1.01 billion for Customs and Border Protection to handle the influx of migrants at our border and $208 million for Immigration and Customs Enforcement to provide medical treatment and transportation, conduct background checks and continue human trafficking investigations. The DHS funding also included $85 million to improve migrant facilities.
Following the vote, I led members of the GOP Doctors Caucus down to the Rio Grande Valley Sector to assess the conditions in detention facilities and the health care for migrants who have been detained at the southern border. What we saw were hardworking border patrol personnel humanely and compassionately giving aid to the migrants who made a dangerous trek from their home to our border. However, the men and women of our border agencies are working in conditions they should not be working in, and these migrants are staying in facilities that are overcrowded and in dire need of expansion.
One of the key takeaways from my most recent trip to the border is that it’s not the quality of care that needs to be changed — our border personnel are providing great care — but it is the length of time that these individuals are in custody and receiving care. It’s imperative that we change our immigration laws and fully fund these agencies so we can quickly and fairly process asylum claims; protect migrants from human trafficking; and prevent gang members and terrorists from entering our country. As of March 31, there was a backlog of over 876,000 pending immigration court cases, and this backlog is growing. The recent legislation provides $45 million to hire 30 more immigration judge teams and $10 million more for courtroom space and equipment to help speed the court hearings along. This is just the first step, but much more must still be done.
In 2014, President Obama made an almost identical request to what President Trump requested. Dealing with a smaller surge of migrants crossing the border, President Obama requested $3.7 billion in humanitarian assistance to fund additional detention centers, increase the number of judges to speed the processing of cases, improve foreign cooperation, and try to address some of the root causes of migration. I found it interesting that while President Obama’s request was approved nearly unanimously, President Trump’s request was called “immoral” and 95 Democrats voted against the aid.
This humanitarian crisis will not end if we do not change our immigration laws and secure our border. U.S. immigration laws are outdated, and we need to close loopholes that are causing hundreds of thousands of migrants to make a dangerous journey to our border. We also should reform our asylum laws so that migrants can apply for asylum at a U.S. Consulate in their residing country and wait there to be processed. This could prevent overcrowding at our borders and could reduce abuse of the asylum process. President Trump has done everything he can to secure the border, but the Democrat House majority refuses to do anything to help. They have opposed his national emergency declaration and have instead tried to restrict the Trump administration’s efforts to enforce border security.
One thing is for certain: the situation at our border will not be fixed if both parties are not united in addressing this crisis. Our southern border, our government agencies, migrants and our president all need the support of Congress to end this humanitarian crisis.

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