This piece is part of our Immigration Idea Incubator series, which features policy ideas our team has been thinking about in addition to our formal immigration strategy work. We welcome your thoughts and engagement!
Update: On May 15th, a group of Senate Democrats introduced the Border Management, Security, and Assistance Act of 2023, a bill aimed at providing supplemental funding to the Southwest border while revising several policies related to border and asylum processing. The appropriations proposed in the bill total nearly $8 billion, more than double the recommendations we have outlined below. Among other changes to existing policy, the bill eliminates the 150-day waiting period for pending asylum applicant work authorization, permits the issuance of digital notices to appear, and removes the requirement for voluntary departure to be paid at the migrant’s expense. These changes and the high cost of the requested funding have likely been prohibitive for Republican colleagues, thus weakening the bill’s chances of progression. We continue to encourage bipartisan collaboration to address the complexities of our border security and humanitarian migration interests.
This week, the COVID-19 public health emergency terminated, ending the most impactful yet unrelated immigration restriction in decades used to expel migrants without the standard processing requirements. Unfortunately, despite having years to plan for the end of Title 42, the administration has done nothing to secure the emergency supplemental funding required to handle the anticipated influx of migrants in the coming months.
Though no one expected Title 42 to last forever, many prominent Democrats and Republicans revolted last year — and again this year — against the President’s efforts to lift the pandemic-era restriction absent mitigating measures and funding. The courts ultimately stalled the effort to end Title 42 in 2021, giving the administration another year to create a workable transition plan.
Given the pronounced need and (rare) time to plan, it’s baffling that the administration never requested an additional dime from a Congress that is otherwise obsessed with the border. The calculation could have been to attempt to force Congress’ hand, but the predictable outcome was the slate of House bills that recently emerged aimed only at halting bipartisan negotiations and ending asylum.
The seemingly obvious answer is that the Biden administration needs to ask Congress to appropriate emergency money to rectify the capacity constraints of our border infrastructure, processing centers, nonprofits, and staff. If the administration’s predictions are correct, we will surpass 1 million encounters in fewer than two months, a number that scared nearly all Republicans into funding an emergency supplemental bill a few years ago.
In 2019, the former acting director of the Office of Management and Budget asked President Trump for help dealing with the migration needs on the border. That request stated, in part:
Apprehensions are expected to surpass one million by the end of the year, more than doubling those compared to last year […] The situation becomes more dire each day [..] [and is] rapidly overwhelming the ability of the Federal Government to respond.
Congress listened and passed the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations for Humanitarian Assistance and Security at the Southern Border Act of 2019. A total of 176 Republicans — including notable hardliners Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) — voted in favor of the $4.5 billion package that provided funds for, but not limited to:
- $65M for legal orientation, additional judges, and better immigration courtroom equipment through DOJ EOIR;
- $1B for Customs and Border Patrol processing facilities, medical care, transportation, and personnel;
- $30M in FEMA funds for local organizations serving communities that experienced significant numbers of migrant arrivals; and
- $2.9B for Health and Human Services to process refugees and unaccompanied children.
As outlined below, the proper supplemental funding request for the current situation would total $3.8 billion, less than the amount requested by former President Trump and less than the amount ultimately granted by Congress in 2019. Even still, it would mark a significant investment in a situation becoming more painfully and acutely apparent by the day.
|DOJ ($343M)||– 60 additional immigration judge teams ($90M)|
– Courtroom/courtroom equipment ($20M)
– IT improvements, digitizing records, remote proceeding capabilities ($50M)
– Legal Orientation Program ($20M)
– Rural Violent Crime Initiative ($8M)
– U.S. Marshals Service Federal Prisoner Detention ($155M)
|DOD ($338M)||– Operations and Maintenance, Army ($90M)|
– Operations and Maintenance, Army National Guard ($25M)
– Operations and Maintenance, Coast Guard ($20M)
– Operations and Maintenance, Marine Corps ($13M)
– Operations and Maintenance, Air Force ($18M)
– National Guard Personnel, Army ($172M)
|CBP ($1.09B)||– Soft-sided facilities for temporary custody/processing of noncitizens ($350M)|
– Closing priority border barrier gaps ($200M)
– Temporary duty/overtime costs and reimbursements ($110M)
– Transportation and fuel costs ($45M)
– Consumables and medical care ($100M)
– Additional CBP Officers, mission support staff, auxiliary facilities ($105M)
– Operational costs, process improvements, IT support ($180M)
|ICE ($450M)||– Transportation of UACs ($35M)|
– Alternatives to detention ($50M)
– Detainee transportation ($15M)
– Detainee medical care ($50M)
– Temporary duty/overtime costs and reimbursements ($70M)
– Background and facility inspections ($10M)
– Homeland Security Investigations, human trafficking ($20M)
– Enforcement and removal for new arrivals ($200M)
|FEMA ($60M)||– Federal Assistance |
– state/local reimbursement ($50M)
– Operation Stonegarden ($10M)
|HHS ($1.11B)||– Expanding the supply of shelters ($800M)|
– Adding shelter beds ($25M)
– Expansion grants for adding beds/opening new shelters ($175M)
– Post-release services, child advocates, legal services ($100M)
– Add field specialists/increase case management ($8M)
– Oversight, Office of Inspector General, and program monitor staff ($6M)
|DEA ($100M)||– Salaries and Expenses ($100M)|
|DHS ($313M)||– Two Joint Processing Centers on SW Border ($30M)|
– Add 3,500 beds and improve/increase processing capacity ($273M)
– IT Upgrades ($10M)
Without these funds, the Biden administration is bound to face crushing political ramifications for what is almost assuredly going to be a humanitarian disaster on our southern border. The political impacts will be far-reaching into 2024, but the people seeking safety, shelter, and work will feel the most catastrophic consequences of this failure to prepare. Most won’t qualify for permanent protection in the U.S., but all deserve to be treated humanely and fairly — a right that will not materialize without border funding now.