The Trump administration has asked Congress for $4.5 billion in funding to address the "humanitarian and security crisis" at America's southern border with Mexico.
The funding is needed due to increased border-crossing, according to Russ Vought, acting director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, who told Congress that Border Patrol has apprehended more than 360,000 migrants through April of this year.
"This is over 187,000 more than during the same period in FY 2018, and just 35,500 below the number apprehended for all of FY 2018," Vought wrote in the letter requesting the funding.
The request comes several months after President Donald Trump used executive authority, including the declaration of a national emergency, to obtain more than $8 billion in funding for his proposed wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. But that money, which Trump took from the Pentagon's military construction budget and other sources, can only be used for certain purposes. The money that Vought requested will not be used for the border wall, according to CNBC.
So what will it be used for? A White House fact sheet says $3.3 billion would go to "humanitarian assistance." Of that amount, $2.8 billion would be used to raise the Department of Health and Human Services' capacity to house unaccompanied migrant children, while another $273 million would be allocated to the Department of Homeland Security so that agency can improve its ability to process migrants. Aside from the $3.3 billion, "$1.1 billion will go to border operations, including personnel expenses, additional detention beds, and operations combating human smuggling and trafficking," the fact sheet says, in addition to $178 million for "mission support."
Vought's letter claims apprehensions at the southern border "are expected to surpass one million by the end of the year," which would be more than double last year's number. "As we've been saying for months and months, the situation at the border becomes more and more dire each day," a senior administration official told reporters on Wednesday, according to Politico. "The bottom line here is that the migration flow and the resulting humanitarian crisis is rapidly overwhelming the federal government's ability to respond."
The request is "an opportunity for House Democrats to put down their partisan rhetoric and embrace the need for more DHS funding," said Rep. Mike Rogers (R–Ala.), the House Homeland Security Committee's ranking member, according to USA Today.
But it's unclear whether Democrats will comply with the Trump administration's request. "The Trump administration appears to want much of this $4.5 billion emergency supplemental request to double down on cruel and ill-conceived policies, including bailing out ICE for overspending on detention beds and expanding family detention," House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita M. Lowey (D–N.Y.) said in a statement, The Washington Post reported. "Locking up people who pose no threat to the community for ever-longer periods of time is not a solution to the problems at the border." Lowery did say she'd review the White House's request.
It's worth noting that for all its emphasis on the humanitarian crisis at the southern border, the Trump administration's actions often speak louder than words. Just this week, for instance, Trump ordered new fees on asylum applications as part of a plan that's likely to backfire, as Reason's Billy Binion detailed.
And the request for more funding wouldn't even be necessary if the Trump administration realized that detaining immigrants isn't the answer. We need more immigration, not less.