Border Crisis: President Requests $3.7B in Emergency Funds

The money President Obama is seeking would be for immigration judges, detention facilities, legal aid and other items

President Barack Obama requested $3.7 billion in emergency funds to handle the influx of unaccompanied minors along the U.S.-Mexico border that has led to the release of undocumented immigrants in California, NBC News reported Tuesday.

The request, initially estimated at $2 billion, comes a day after another another plane of undocumented women and children arrived at San Diego’s Lindbergh Field, bringing more than 100 immigrants from Central America for processing at local U.S. Customs and Border Protection facilities. The arrival follows more than week of tension in the Riverside County community of Murrieta, where buses of immigrant families were turned away as they arrived outside a Border Patrol station that was to serve as a processing center.

The money President Obama is seeking would be for immigration judges, detention facilities, legal aid and other items that could address the situation on the border, which the administration has termed a humanitarian crisis.

Funding Request Details:

  • $1.1 billion for the Department of Homeland Security to help deter border-crossers and increase enforcement. That would include $879 million to pay for detention and removal of adults traveling with children, to provide additional detention space for those individuals, and to speed up the prosecution of adults who cross the border unlawfully with children.
  • $433 million for Customs and Border Protection to cover overtime costs and for additional facilities to detain unaccompanied children while they are in Border Patrol custody. It also includes nearly $40 million to increase air surveillance, such as drone flights along the border.
  • $64 million to the Department of Justice, with much of the money spend on hiring 40 additional teams of immigration judges. The White House says that together with a previous request for 35 additional teams, the system would be able to process an additional 55,000 to 75,000 cases annually.
  • $1.8 billion to the Department of Health and Human Services for the care of unaccompanied children, including shelter and medical care.

Tuesday's emergency funding request also included extra money for fighting wildfires in the western United States, according to the Associated Press. About $625 million of the emergency spending request would go to fight wildfires in Western states.

The request of Congress did not include proposals for legislative changes that the White House wants.

On Monday, activists and community leaders rallied in downtown Los Angeles to denounce Obama’s request to increase border security and expedite immigration processing. Immigration rights groups and community leaders stood in front of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services building to speak out against what they called the "fast track" approach to solve the border crisis.

Administration officials said they are still working on ways to do it faster, but that the request for specific legislative changes will move on a separate track than the emergency spending request Obama is sending to Congress on Tuesday.

The process for undocumented immigrants involves meeting with an immigration officer in 15 days at a court near their final destination. The officer will make sure they're still living where they claim and will then set a date for them to appear in immigration court.

Immigration attorneys say that due to the influx of immigrants being processed from Central America, immigration court hearings that normally would be scheduled within days are now being scheduled months out.

In 2013, more than 26,000 unaccompanied minors were apprehended on the southwestern border and just 1,669 were deported, according to NBC News. The San Diego sector of CBP has managed the arrival and processing of close to 400 immigrants in less than a week.

NBC News reports some Democratic lawmakers are reluctant to give away even narrow changes to immigration law, given the fact that broader immigration reform is going nowhere.

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) said the White House can act within existing law to speed up the judicial process.

"The administration should use that flexibility to speed up the system while still treating these children humanely, with compassion and respect," she said.

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