$4.5B in border funding sought

Herika Martinez  AFP  Getty Images

In March alone, more than 100,000 individuals were apprehended at the border, including 53,077 family units and 8,975 unaccompanied minors.

Homeland Security officials have warned of "child recycling", cases where they say children allowed into the USA were smuggled back into Central America to be paired up again with other adults in fake families.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement will begin voluntary DNA testing in cases where officials suspect that adults are fraudulently claiming to be parents of children as they cross the U.S. -Mexico border. Border apprehensions reached a peak of 1.6 million in 2000 and have been on a decline, reaching a low of 327,577 since then.

"DHS projects it will exhaust resources well before the end of the fiscal year", reads the formal request letter to Congress, also obtained by the AP.

The White House sent Congress a $4.5 billion emergency spending request for the border on Wednesday, citing an unfolding "humanitarian and security crisis" as record numbers of Central American families seek entrance into the United States. Instead, thousands are showing up every day (in what USA officials have dubbed the "conveyor belt") and are turning themselves over to Border Patrol agents so they can claim asylum. "Agencies are literally running out of funds".

In doing so, the administration acknowledged that President Donald Trump's emergency declaration to divert taxpayer money for a yet-to-be-built border wall can not address the growing humanitarian challenge on the ground, which now requires additional government funding.

On a call with reporters, officials said testing will be voluntary and the samples will only be used to determine family relationships, not to prosecute. Democrats failed in their attempt to block Trump's emergency declaration, and they are using a popular veterans bill to block wall construction funding.

The funding would also help enhance operations and upgrade the government's information technology systems at the border to ensure officers are processing migrants accurately and quickly.

While border agencies Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement often say they need to inspect people's electronics at the border to stop human smuggling, smuggling of child pornography, and terrorism, the American Civil Liberties Union and Electronic Frontier Foundation say the agencies are authorized to search for a far wider range of types of evidence. The request does not include money for a border wall, which congressional Democrats have refused to fund.

Acting Office of Management and Budget Director Russ Vought said the administration needs $3.3 billion for humanitarian assistance, including food, diapers, clothing and additional bed space for children.

"We're going to learn a lot from these (Homeland Security Investigations) teams that have deployed to El Paso and Rio Grande Valley", acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan said during a House hearing Tuesday.

The official stressed that the request is necessary to address a "dire" situation along the border.

"We will continue fighting the administration's use of mass incarceration as a weapon to punish migrants", Realmuto said. Martha McSally is calling on her colleagues in Congress to approve $4.5 billion requested by the White House to provide relief to towns that are being overwhelmed with migrant releases.

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