The Biden administration is requesting $14 billion in additional border spending, largely to hire more officers, agents and immigration judges to respond to high levels of border crossings.
“The request we have made of Congress today provides critically needed funding to equip the Department of Homeland Security with the people and tools it needs to prevent cartels from moving fentanyl through our ports of entry and to enforce our immigration laws in an orderly and effective way,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said. “At this time of unprecedented hemispheric and global challenges, we must come together to strengthen our ability to protect the American people.”
The $105 billion supplemental funding request is largely focused on supporting Ukraine and Israel in ongoing wars.
The two members of Congress representing El Paso – Democrat Veronica Escobar and Republican Tony Gonzales – declined to comment on the funding request because they hadn’t yet seen all the details.
Congress cannot act on the supplemental request until the House or Representatives elects a speaker – something it has been unable to do for almost three weeks because of Republican infighting.
Among the highlights from the Biden administration request for additional border funding:
- Hiring an additional 1,300 Border Patrol agents and 1,000 officers for Customs and Border Protection and Homeland Security Investigations.
- Adding 1,600 asylum officers and support staff to speed up asylum decisions.
- Additional detention space to hold migrants, rather than releasing them with notices to appear in immigration court.
- Hiring 375 new immigration judges and 1,470 additional attorneys and support staff to process immigration cases more quickly.
- $1.4 billion in additional funding for local governments and nonprofits that provide temporary assistance to arriving migrants.
Migrant advocates had a lukewarm response to the proposal.
“As is often the case with the Biden administration, there’s some good and bad mixed together here,” said Adam Isacson, director of defense oversight for WOLA, an advocacy organization in Washington, D.C., that is focused on human rights in the Americas.
“There are important increases in funding for migrant processing, adjudication of asylum cases, and U.S. assistance for communities trying to integrate asylum seekers,” Isacson said.
“Parts of the package, however, still reflect a belief that this protection-seeking migration can somehow be deterred by making the experience more miserable. Nothing else explains the new investment in detention and the ‘soft detention’ of non-custodial expedited removal, which will increase misery and truncate due process but are unlikely to reduce arrivals at the border very much,” he said.