Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson will appear before the Senate Appropriations Committee Thursday to back President Barack Obama’s request for $3.7 billion in funding to deal with an influx of thousands of child immigrants from the Mexican border, according to media reports published Thursday.
Obama had appealed to Congress on Tuesday for emergency funds to address what he termed an “urgent humanitarian situation.” Johnson’s decision to support Obama’s request comes at a time when more than 57,000 unaccompanied children, mostly from Central American countries like Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Mexico, have been caught in south Texas, after attempting to cross the border illegally.
Obama had earlier urged Congress to support his request for supplemental funding, stating that the money was needed to increase border patrol capacity to deal with the influx and also to speed up the court process that currently has a backlog of over 360,000 deportation cases.
“Without supplemental funding, agencies will not have sufficient resources to adequately address this situation...Border Patrol agents will have to be re-assigned to child care duties from their border security work and Immigration and Customs Enforcement will lack the resources needed to sufficiently expand detention and removal capacity for adults with children who cross the border illegally,” the White House said, in a statement released Tuesday.
The emergency budget request also includes funding for the Department of Justice to hire 40 new immigration judge teams, $1 billion to Homeland Security to strengthen immigration enforcement measures and about $295 million to support repatriation of the deported children.
Obama’s request for funding, however, is being met by stiff opposition in Congress from lawmakers of both parties.
The Republicans, alleging that Obama’s decision to relax deportation rules is to blame for the increased influx of immigrants, have demanded legislation to speed the deportation of minors in exchange for their support. Many Democrats, however, have expressed their disagreement toward such an approach.
“Let’s take care that we don’t send them back into a deadly situation,” Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois, the chamber’s second-ranking Democrat, told reporters, according to Bloomberg.