President Obama’s Supplemental Funding Request for Immigration and Wildfires Incites Congressional Action

President Obama Speaks on Immigration, July 8, 2014Immigration issues are reaching a boiling point in the Texas desert. Sparked by recent events, President Obama submitted a letter to Congress on July 8th titled, “Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Request to Address the Increase in Child and Adult Migration from Central America in the Rio Grande Valley Areas of the Southwest Border; and Wildfire Suppression.” In his letter, President Obama asked Congress to supplement his appropriations request for Fiscal Year 2014 with $3.7 billion to support sustained border security and wildfire management. The money would be spent to enhance domestic air and land surveillance at the Mexico border, as well as to provide additional legal support for the multitude of apprehensions of unaccompanied children and adults traveling with children. Each case of apprehension for an illegal immigrant has a cost to the U.S. government, and $3.7 billion is the president’s estimate for short-term spending (with approximately 600 million for spending on wildfires).

The more recent influx of unaccompanied minors and families with children attempting to cross illegally into the United States originates in countries outside of the contiguous Mexico and Canada. These children and families are trafficked through Mexico in droves, assured safe passage by their guides, or “Coyotes,” from countries such as Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. This human smuggling fosters criminal activity in Mexico as well as a substantial burden for border security in the United States.

To provide further detail to the President’s funding request letter, the White House released an accompanying “Fact Sheet.” The “Fact Sheet” gives an estimated cost breakdown for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Customs and Border Protection, Department of Justice, Department of State, and Department of Health and Human Services. It also highlights four main pillars of the supplemental appropriation:

  • Deterrence, including increased detainment and removal of adults with children and increased immigration court capacity to speed cases
  • Enforcement, including enhanced interdiction and prosecution of criminal networks, increased surveillance, and expanded collaborative law enforcement task force efforts
  • Foreign Cooperation, including improved repatriation and reintegration, stepped-up public information campaigns, and efforts to address the root causes of migration
  • Capacity, including increased detainment, care, and transportation of unaccompanied children

Today, Congress met in Washington to discuss the President’s letter and to formulate a response. Wildfire spending aside, current immigration issues may indeed be hot enough to render Congress more malleable to real reform on this otherwise highly-polarizing topic.

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