EL PASO, Texas — The $4.6 billion Border Supplemental Bill signed this week by President Donald Trump won’t fix shortcomings at migrant detention facilities, El Paso’s representatives in Congress said.
“I welcome the border spending bill happily, but this is only a short-term fix. Congress and the administration must do more to address the crisis,” U.S. Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas) said in an editorial letter. “The spending bill will help but doesn’t address the root causes of mass migration: violence, extreme poverty and lack of economic opportunity” in Central America.
Hurd suggested that solving the driving factors of migration in Central America would be cheaper than waiting to solve the problem until the migrants reach the U.S. border.
U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, his Democratic counterpart, said she doesn’t know when El Paso will receive any of that money. Also, she’s concerned that the agencies tasked with dealing with detained immigrants have not optimized resources in the past.
“My hope is that, because there is universal support for the Border Supplemental appropriation that the money will not be diverted,” Escobar said Monday at a town hall at Jefferson High School in El Paso. “We want to shepherd that process and help our nonprofits and local governments get reimbursed” for migrant care.
Her concern is that the Department of Homeland Security and its agencies have received funds during the migrant surge dating back to October and continue to say they are underfunded.
Migrants “continue to sleep on concrete floors, wrapped in a single aluminum blanket. None of that has changed. This leads some of our colleagues to ask why they keep appropriating money, distribute it for other purposes and these folks come back to ask for more,” she said. “We need safeguards in place so that when Congress appropriates funds for a specific purpose, no one can shift money between accounts.”
While she said the agency still has “good people in there,” Escobar called out DHS for not adapting to change.
“We have a very well-funded government agency that, for one reason or another, doesn’t seem to be equipped for change. Migration patterns have changed and will continue to change. … We need an agency that tells Congress, ‘this is how things are changing, here’s how we need to do things differently,” she said. “Instead, we have a federal law-enforcement agency that is operating today in exactly the same way it operated 20 years ago.”
Last week, DHS acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan, stated that the agency for several months had been asking Congress for additional money to cope with the migrant surge and with the factors driving Central American migration to the United States.
It wasn’t until media reports of neglect of migrant children at border detention facilities prompted Congress to approve the $4.6 billion Border Supplemental Bill.
Escobar explains ‘no’ vote on border bill
Escobar on Tuesday explained that she voted against the bill in a symbolic protest against the consensus that built in favor of the Senate version, instead of the House version, which demanded more accountability.
“I was watching the (House vote) board. I essentially filed a protest vote. That’s what my ‘no’ vote was. I would have never let the Senate bill, as flawed as it is, tank because we need the money … to get kids out of detention and a better standards situation. That was the most important thing for me: those kids,” she said. “I would have never voted no if I were the deciding vote, but I had the luxury, because there was overwhelming support, to send a message that it is not acceptable that compromise is not allowed and that debate is not allowed when people’s lives are at stake.”