Lawmakers introduced a bipartisan bill Thursday requiring the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to draft a strategy to manage the surge of migrants at the southern border in order to unlock new emergency funds.
The bill, crafted by New York Republican Rep. John Katko and Texas Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar, titled the Border Surge Response and Resilience Act, mandates that DHS outline specific metrics that would trigger their response plan. It reflects growing bipartisan concerns that the surge of migrants may lead to a humanitarian crisis.
Once the plan is activated, DHS could pull $1 billion from the Migration Surge Border Response Fund as needed, meaning that the agency would not have to reallocate its own budget to pay for food, transportation or first-aid for the increasing number of migrants. (RELATED: Number Of Minor Detainees Has Tripled In Recent Weeks)
“After hearing firsthand from border patrol agents, it’s clear they need interagency backup and accountability across the Federal Government to appropriately handle border surges,” Katko said in a joint statement. “Agents and officers on the frontlines are suffering through another crisis, in the midst of a global pandemic, and some still haven’t been vaccinated.”
“We need greater confidence that the Federal Government can manage these crises going forward. This bill would do just that,” Katko said.
“It is critical that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is proactive and develops a strategy to adequately manage large migration flows at our southern border,” Cuellar said in a joint statement. “This bipartisan legislation will allow the federal government to employ a whole-of-government approach to create a response framework that anticipates migration surges, allowing them to quickly shift resources and take immediate action to mitigate a humanitarian crisis.”
While migrant surges have occurred in the past, DHS projections, first reported by Axios, show that the current increase could last for over seven months, with as many as 26,000 unaccompanied children reaching the border by September 2021 alone. The increase means the government would need an extra 34,000 beds by September to meet the surge in unaccompanied minors.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in March that crossings were on pace to hit a 20-year high, even as the U.S. expelled the majority of single adults and families.
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