The Department of Homeland Security is asking Congress to approve a $1.2 billion supplemental spending bill to cover the costs of increased border enforcement efforts, and its decision to take money from other government functions to deal with the crisis at the southern U.S. border.
DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson said Monday that while the crisis seems to have abated, efforts over the past several months have drained DHS's coffers, and said Congress needs to pay up for an emergency it has yet to fund.
"We asked Congress to support our efforts with supplemental funding," Johnson wrote. "Congress failed to act on our request before the August recess."
"Though the worst is over for now, there are still bills to be paid and our border security efforts must be sustained to prevent another spike like we saw this year," he added. "Now that Congress is back from recess, I hope it will support the men and women who worked overtime along the southwest border and provide this department with an additional $1.2 billion in funding in FY 2015."
As Johnson noted, Congress failed to pass any border supplemental bill before leaving for the August break, even though President Barack Obama asked for $3.7 billion in additional funding. The House approved nearly $700 million in additional funds before leaving, but the Senate never considered that bill, and doesn't appear likely in the few weeks left before the mid-term elections.
Because Congress failed to act, the government was forced to transfer millions of dollars from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Coast Guard, and the Transportation Security Administration to fund efforts to deal with the thousands of unaccompanied children that have crossed the border this year.
"I was left with no choice but to reprogram $405 million away from the disaster relief fund and other important homeland security priorities to pay for the border situation," Johnson said. "This reprogramming is not sustainable, and leaves the nation vulnerable to unacceptable homeland security risks."
Johnson said the flood of illegal immigrants has subsided for now, but said funding is needed to maintain operations and deal with any future spikes that might lie ahead. "Without supplemental funding, I will be forced to seek additional reprograming for FY 2015 if our efforts and progress is to be sustained," he said.
August saw just 3,100 unaccompanied children come across the border, a significant drop from the more than 10,000 seen in May and June.
From October 2013 through August 2014, more than 66,000 unaccompanied children have been apprehended at the border. While some said as many as 90,000 might be taken by the end of September, the end of the fiscal year, it now appears likely that the number may not reach 80,000.