Funding Bill and "National Emergency" Update

Today, February 15, 2019, the President declared an utterly unnecessary and anti-child “national emergency” on our southern border. The declaration would take money from other departments, mostly from the Department of Defense’s military construction budget, on top of the almost $1.4 billion Congress authorized to build a border wall. This brings the total wall funding to a whopping $8 billion dollars. The speech was riddled with unsupported allegations and hate-filled rhetoric about the children and families who are coming to our border to seek protection. Thankfully, members of Congress and advocates are poised to block the declaration with bills and challenges in court.

The announcement comes after Congress passed a funding bill yesterday that dramatically and unnecessarily increased funding for immigration enforcement to avoid a second government shutdown. That compromise includes:

  • Overall increases in enforcement funding: ICE is funded at $7.6 billion which is $512 million above FY2018. CBP received $14.9 billion, which is $942 million above FY2018.

  • The wall: Trump was denied nearly all funding for his “wall” but received $1.375 billion for “primary pedestrian barriers” in the Rio Grande Valley with several restrictions in sensitive wildlife areas.

  • Detention beds: Funding for ICE detention beds increased from an average daily population for the fiscal year of 40,520 in FY 2018 to 45,274 in FY 2019.

  • ICE Agents: There is $40 million in new funding to hire ICE agents to manage a family case management program that will enroll asylum seekers (we don’t yet know just what this means). There are no new ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations agents.

  • CBP Agents: There are 600 additional customs officers. There is no funding to hire Border Patrol agents beyond “on boarding” levels but the number of Border Patrol agents is likely to increase from current employment today by approximately 200 agents.

  • $415 Million for Border Patrol Holding Facilities: The bill includes money to build a new temporary Border Patrol holding facility in El Paso, Texas, to make improvements to the Border Patrol McAllen Central Processing Center and to provide medical care, transportation, food and clothing.

The bill does include some provision for immigrant children protections, such as ensuring that Members of Congress can visit DHS facilities that detain children and prohibiting ICE from using funds to deport the sponsors or potential sponsors of unaccompanied children based on information provided by HHS, unless that person poses a danger to the child.

While the bill passed by Congress was deeply troubling, it was a compromise and l only funds DHS until September. Negotiations over funding for all agencies for Fiscal Year 2020 (which starts October 1, 2019) are already underway. And the compromise legislation was obviously considered a loss at the White House, given this morning’s declaration, though the President signed the bill today.

In the coming weeks, the Young Center will be advocating with legislators and policy makers to address the critical needs of children and families arriving at the U.S. border and under attack from a host of federal policies including “Remain in Mexico” and attempted “re-writes” of well-settled asylum law. And in every case of children place in federal custody, we will continue to fight for their best interests—to ensure someone treats them as children.

Maddie Witters