Senate appropriators are proposing to spend an extra $1 billion to pay for healthcare services for thousands of illegal immigrant children who are fleeing into the United States.
The Senate Appropriations subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education released a statement Tuesday saying the flood of unaccompanied alien children across the U.S.-Mexico is “an emergency situation by any definition.”
“Beginning in 2012, the number of children fleeing escalating gang and drug violence in Central America, seeking relief in the United States and to reunite with families already living here, began to significantly increase,” the statement said. “The number of children dramatically increased in FY 2014, creating an urgent humanitarian crisis.
“In May 2014 alone, approximately 9,500 children were apprehended by the Department of Homeland Security and transferred to HHS care, a more than 300 percent increase over May 2013, and approximately 150 percent more than the total number of children in all of FY 2011.”
The subcommittee said that to deal with the emergency, it would increase funding for the Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC) program by $1.03 billion in fiscal year 2015. That’s more than double the funding seen in 2014, and it brings the total funding proposal to $1.94 billion.
The subcommittee said it was offsetting this increase by finding cuts elsewhere in the $156.7 billion spending bill.
Over the last few weeks, Republicans have said the flood of children across the southern border of the United States is a direct result of attempts by Democrats to create legal status for illegal immigrants, and to use “prosecutorial discretion” to avoid sending some illegal immigrants back to their home country.
The GOP says these efforts send a signal to other countries that the U.S. is unlikely to enforce the border, which is leading to a rise in border crossings. Many recent immigrants have been sent to Arizona, which has led to a call from Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) to investigate the Obama administration’s response to the crisis.
Senators seemed to acknowledge the uncertainty surrounding the emergency at the border, by including language allowing more funding to be used to control the situation if it’s needed.
“[G]iven the uncertainty of estimates in this program, the committee provides expanded transfer authority to respond to sudden or urgent needs in the future,” the statement said. “Therefore, if current trends continue the committee recommendation will provide needed resources to increase shelter capacity and provide critical support services for children in HHS care, and after they’ve been released to a parent or sponsor.”