U.S. President Barack Obama is seeking $3.7 billion from lawmakers to address the increase in the number of migrants, particularly unaccompanied children, crossing into the United States from Central America. Emergency funding request is aimed at addressing what White House officials are calling an urgent humanitarian situation.
The thousands of undocumented migrants who cross into the United States each year all have reasons for making the dangerous journey, only to be detained at the border and sent back.
One 26-year-old migrant says the situation was dire in her native country of Guatemala.
“We came here looking for a future for our children more than anything, but it is very dangerous there with crime, kidnappings and everything," she said.
The woman crossed the U.S. border with her three children, but many young people aren’t so lucky.
More than 52,000 unaccompanied minors have been apprehended at the U.S.-Mexican border since October - a staggering humanitarian problem that the White House says needs a “whole of government response.”
On Tuesday, the Obama administration detailed a $3.7 billion emergency appropriation request for Congress focused on four main areas - deterrence, enforcement, foreign cooperation and capacity.
White House officials say the proposed funding includes $1.6 billion for border enforcement, including the investigation and prosecution of smuggling networks and the expansion of air surveillance. The money also will be used to speed up the removal of migrants by hiring more immigration judge teams to process an additional 55,000 to 75,000 cases annually.
“We are also seeking greater authority that the secretary of Homeland Security could use to more efficiently remove those individuals who don’t have a legal basis for remaining in the country," said White House spokesman Josh Earnest.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services would receive an additional $1.8 billion to provide appropriate care for the surge of unaccompanied children and address the influx of minors coming across the border.
White House officials say the State Department would receive $300 million for media campaigns in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador warning the public against traveling to the U.S. The funding also would support those countries’ repatriation efforts, including building centers for returning migrants.
Republican lawmakers Tuesday accused Obama of not moving fast enough to move more resources to the border.
"Appropriate money that it is still going for nation building in Iraq to fund the National Guard on our southern border," said U.S. Senator Ted Poe of Texas. "Surely protecting our border is just as important as securing the border of Iraq?"
For its part, the White House is urging Congress to act fast and consider Obama’s proposal in a bipartisan manner.