DHS chief says more funds needed to handle crush of migrants
WASHINGTON (AP) — Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan said Tuesday the department is running out of money amid the crush of migrants crossing the Southern border, and the White House will send a supplemental request for more funds.
McAleenan told a House panel the money will be for temporary and semi-permanent facilities to process families and children and increase detention. He didn't specify a figure.
"Upgrades are badly needed," he said. "We will need funding even sooner."
The facilities are outdated, designed when the flow of migrants over the border was mainly Mexican men who could be processed and returned quickly. Now, most of the people coming are Central American families that cannot be easily returned. Nearly 100,000 migrants crossed the border in March, a 12-year high.
McAleenan said President Donald Trump would also be sending legislative requests for faster deportations and to ask that families be detained for the length of their immigration case. Right now, children cannot be detained longer than about 20 days per a federal court agreement that governs the rights of children in immigration custody.
Trump said in a memorandum signed Monday that he would begin charging asylum seekers to process their applications, but did not specify a fee, and directed his administration to resolve cases within 180 days. It can take months for cases to be resolved. The immigration court has a massive backlog of about 1 million cases.
He also wants to bar anyone who has entered or tried to enter the country illegally from receiving a provisional work permit and is calling on officials to immediately revoke work authorizations when people are denied asylum and ordered removed from the country.
McAleenan told the committee he was there to help try to solve the border crisis through bipartisan work — and he was praised by many of the lawmakers from both political parties.
Democratic Congresswoman Nita Lowey, the chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee, congratulated McAleenan on taking over at a critical time for a department, but hinted it would be a tough job. McAleenan, the former head of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, has been in charge about two weeks.
"It seems like the car is driving off the cliff with no one to take the wheel," she said of the DHS, referring to the staff shake-up orchestrated by the White House that saw top leaders leave and resulted in the resignation of former Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.
"Although I guess Mr. Secretary, you are now driving. Congratulations," Lowey said.