July 9, 2014
Administration Submits FY14 Supplemental to Address
Central America Migration Crisis
Includes $300 million for International Affairs programs
Yesterday, the White House sent to Congress a $4.3 billion emergency FY14 supplemental request to mainly deal with the surge in unaccompanied children from Central America that are crossing into the United States at the southwest border. The Administration, as well as a number of lawmakers, characterize the situation as a humanitarian emergency and have proposed a broad package that addresses multiple elements of the problem. These measures range from enforcement, detention and repatriation, to dealing with the underlying causes for the migration surge.
The supplemental includes $3.7 billion for the migration issue, with about one-half of the funds going to the Department of Health and Human Services for the care of children crossing into the United States. $1.6 billion is proposed for the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice to augment border protection, customs enforcement, and the number of immigration judges. Included in the supplemental request is $300 million for International Affairs programs that will address problems in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Mexico dealing with the root causes of the migration surge. On a separate matter, the supplemental proposes $615 million for wild land fire management that would cover a gap in current resources available for wildfire suppression this year.
Details of International Affairs Programs in the Supplemental
The $300 million for International Affairs programs will support State Department and USAID economic assistance programs aimed at strengthening the capacity of Central American countries to better control their own borders and countering the underlying causes of migration, especially those most affecting children and young adults, including violent crime and lack of economic opportunities. As detailed below, some of these funds also could be made available to the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC).
Part of the supplemental request is a requirement for State and USAID to develop metrics against which progress will be measured on repatriation and reintegration and on the degree of cooperation Central American governments are providing in dealing with challenges in their own countries that have led to the surge in migration. The degree to which these metrics are met will be a factor in whether the U.S. provides additional assistance in the future. To that end, Vice President Biden and Secretary Kerry have met in recent weeks with the leaders from the four countries emphasizing the shared responsibilities for addressing the current and longer-term migration issues and the expectation for strong commitments from each to tackle the root causes in their own countries.
Details of the request include:
The remaining $1 million in International Affairs supplemental funding will expand State Department media campaigns in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras targeting potential migrants. These public outreach efforts will emphasize messages about the severe dangers that children confront on their journey to the United States and counter misinformation from smugglers and criminals with clear statements that these children will not be able to remain in the U.S.
In order to provide flexibility in managing supplemental resources, the request includes authority to transfer economic aid from the Economic Support Fund to the Complex Crises Fund or to the International Narcotics and Law Enforcement account and for State and USAID to transfer funds to other agencies, such as the MCC and Department of Justice. The MCC currently maintains a compact with El Salvador and a threshold program with Honduras.
The supplemental package has sparked decidedly mixed reactions on Capitol Hill, with controversy over the lack of offsets to pay for the package, the prioritization of programs for additional funding, and U.S. immigration policy generally. Many Republican members have raised concerns about the designation of the entire package as an “emergency” requirement, meaning the funding falls outside of the FY14 spending caps. To address the issue, for example, Appropriations Ranking Member Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) suggested funds be taken from the 2010 health care law in order to offset the cost.
As we reported last week, some members have suggested suspending assistance to Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras until the countries take action to halt the migration across the border. On June 30th, Rep. Randy Weber (R-TX) introduced the “Illegal Entry Accountability Act” (H.R.5014) which would enact the suspension of assistance. Other members, including Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and John McCain (R-AZ), have made statements in support of cutting off assistance if these countries cannot stop the migration exodus. During a Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee hearing today, however, Chairman Tom Carper (D-DE) spoke about the importance of assistance to those countries, stating that “the Administration’s request does take an important first step by allocating money for the State Department to help these countries tackle these root causes. But if we are serious about improving conditions in the region, we will need to do more.”
Some Republican lawmakers have strongly criticized the border crisis as being caused by the Administration’s failed policies and said they would prefer to see more programs focused on stopping the flow of illegal immigrants and securing the border – rather than dealing with those currently held in detention centers. House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-OH) office noted that the Speaker would support programs that are not included in the proposal, including deploying the National Guard to the border.
Congressional leaders have not set a timeline for acting on the supplemental, and some are suggesting waiting to combine the request with a vote in late September on an FY15 Continuing Resolution. Hearings got underway in the Senate this week on the subject. Today, the Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee held a hearing on the challenges at the border and addressing the causes behind the rise in migration. Witnesses included representatives from the Departments of State (Francisco Palmieri, Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Caribbean and Central America), Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, and Justice.
Tomorrow the Senate Appropriations Committee will hold its first hearing on the matter, with witnesses from the Departments of State (Thomas Shannon, Counselor of the Department), Homeland Security, and Health and Human Services. The House Appropriations Committee has not set a hearing date, but Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) has said that “it is clear that additional funding will be needed to ensure the proper care of these unaccompanied children, to enforce the law, and to further secure our border.”