House Republicans on Tuesday released a border security bill that spends $659 million to secure the southern U.S. border and help process the thousands of immigrant children who have crossed into the United States this year.
The bill spends $3 billion less than the $3.7 billion President Barack Obama has requested for the next few years to deal with the border crisis.
On the other hand, the bill would spend all $659 million in the next two months, far more than the $25 million Obama’s proposal would spend for the rest of fiscal year 2014.
All spending in the bill is completely offset by taking funding from various federal agencies. In contrast, Obama’s plan was cast as “emergency spending” that would come from more government borrowing.
While many Democrats will likely oppose the bill, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) said it would spend enough to deal with the crisis at hand.
“The situation on our southern border is dire, and additional resources are needed to respond to the crisis at hand,” he said. “The bill introduced today will help address the urgent needs of our law enforcement personnel and federal agencies to strengthen our border, enforce our laws, care for and process the thousands of unaccompanied children and immigrant families already in the United States, and help stem the illegal immigration tide for the future – all while keeping a tight rein on taxpayer dollars.”
One key piece of the bill would amend the 2008 Trafficking Victims Protection and Reauthorization Act to require all unaccompanied children from Central America to either be returned home immediately or receive an expedited immigration court hearing. Amending the 2008 law is a key piece of the bill for Republicans who say the law is part of the reason why more children are trying to cross into the U.S.
It would also require the Departments of Interior and Agriculture from stopping border officials from entering protected land in order to protect the border. And, immigrants with drug-related convictions could not apply for asylum under the bill.
As expected, the bill does not appear to include any language demanded by some Republicans that would prevent Obama from expanding a deferred action program to millions of adults. GOP senators like Ted Cruz (Texas) and Jeff Sessions (Ala.) have warned that Obama appears to be preparing a new amnesty program that could allow five to six million illegal immigrants to stay in the U.S. and obtain work authorization permits.
A breakdown of spending in the bill shows that most of it would go to tighten up the southern U.S. border:
— $405 million would go to the Department of Homeland Security to enhance border security and enforcement efforts. Most of this goes to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to deal with the detention and processing of illegal immigrants, and $71 million would go to U.S. Customs and Border Protection operations.
— $197 million would be directed to the Department of Homeland Security to provide housing and care to the roughly 60,000 children who have crossed over to the United States.
— $40 million in aid would go to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to help process immigrants who are returned to their home countries (this money is redirected from current funds and doesn’t count toward the $659 million in new funding.
— $35 million would be used to allow the National Guard to help police the border, and $22 million would boost judicial proceedings for immigrants.
The bill is paid for with several spending offsets, including:
— $405 million from unobligated funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
— $197 million from unused balances from the State Department’s Economic Support Fund.
— $35 million in extra funding from the Defense Department’s Working Capital Fund.
— $22 million in extra funding from the Justice Department’s Asset Forfeiture Fund.