Trump to request more money for border crisis

The Trump administration will ask Congress for additional funds to address the humanitarian crisis at the southern border, acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan told lawmakers Tuesday.

“While our 2020 budget will help address this crisis, we will need additional funding even sooner,” he said during testimony before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security. “Given the scale of what we’re facing, we will exhaust our resources before the end of this fiscal year. Which is why this week the administration will be sending a supplemental funding request to the Congress.”

He did not specify the amount of funding in the forthcoming request.

McAleenan, who took over as head of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) after Kirstjen Nielsen's resignation earlier this month, said the funds would help pay for temporary and semi-permanent migrant processing facilities where “families and children will receive timely and appropriate medical attention, food, and temporary shelter” before being transported to other facilities.

The announcement comes a day after President Trump called for sweeping changes to how the United States handles asylum cases. The White House said the overhaul would "strengthen asylum procedures to safeguard our system against rampant abuse of our asylum process."

Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.), who chairs the appropriations subcommittee on Homeland Security, criticized Trump's new asylum plan.

"To make matters worse, just last night the president directed you and the attorney general to adjudicate all asylum applications within 180 days, except in exceptional circumstances; to require a fee for asylum applications and a fee for asylum seekers to receive work authorization; and to deny work authorization to asylum seekers who cross between the ports of entry," she said at Tuesday's hearing.

The number of border apprehensions and denials of people attempting to enter the U.S. through the southern border spiked to 92,607 in March, up from 66,884 the previous month, according to government figures.

The border situation has become a political flashpoint between Trump and Democrats. The president has called the migrant surge a threat to national security, while Democrats have objected to the treatment of children and families who are fleeing violence and seeking political asylum.

Trump declared a state of emergency this year in order to reprogram funds to build his proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Roybal-Allard said the administration has long been saying they need more resources, but thus far had not made a formal request.

“I’m happy that you have stated that we will be receiving a request from you,” she told McAleenan.

The acting DHS chief also addressed concerns from Democratic lawmakers about child separations at the border, saying they would happen only in very specific circumstances.

“The conditions where a child might be separated from a lawful parent or guardian at this time are extraordinarily rare,” he said, noting that exceptions pertain to “the safety and welfare of the child, a communicable disease, a serious criminal history, a risk presented by the adult to the child.”

He said child separations occur about twice a day, out of 1,600 daily family arrivals.

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