The White House asked Congress on Wednesday to provide an extra $4.5 billion in supplemental funding for activities related to the U.S.-Mexico border.
Some $3.3 billion of those funds would go to what administration officials described as “humanitarian assistance” for the high numbers of migrant Central American families and unaccompanied children, who typically seek relief from deportation. The balance would go toward other border operations and immigrant detention.
The spending request comes less than three months after President Donald Trump declared a national emergency to mobilize funds for construction of his promised border wall, largely by shifting money out of Defense Department accounts.
The humanitarian assistance portion of this new funding would mainly cover the financing of shelters, transportation, diapers and other services for unaccompanied minors. The Office of Refugee Resettlement, which takes custody of migrant children who show up by themselves at the border, may run out of money for its unaccompanied minors program by June, a senior administration official said on a Wednesday phone call with reporters.
“The situation has become more dire,” the official said. “Agencies are literally running out of funds.”
None of the requested funds would be used to build “additional miles of wall on the border,” officials said.
The emergency request sets the White House up for a confrontation with Democrats in Congress, who largely oppose Trump’s ongoing border fortification efforts, sweeping immigration changes and vilification of asylum-seeking migrants.
The Trump administration has repeatedly revised border policy and mobilized the National Guard and the U.S. military in efforts to scare undocumented families and children away from the border.
But so far, the issue has only worsened under Trump’s watch.
Last month, some 53,000 “family units” were apprehended by the U.S. Border Patrol crossing the southern border ― more than double the number from January. The families, most of whom came from the Central American countries of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, typically requested asylum or other humanitarian forms of relief from deportation.
The number of unaccompanied children crossing the border also rose ― to nearly 9,000. The Border Patrol has not seen monthly apprehensions of unaccompanied minors reach monthly totals that high since 2014.