Congress would award the massive check to the government just as the U.S. is experiencing a surge in arrivals of immigrant children at the southern border. Last week, federal agencies said they were opening two temporary shelters with 1,000 beds in South Texas to cope with the surge. A 400-bed shelter is also to be opened in Southern California.
“Out of an abundance of caution, the Office of Refugee Resettlement at the Department of Health and Human Services has begun a process to expand its temporary capacity to house unaccompanied children,” the Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement last Monday.
The so-called omnibus spending bill would give $1,645,201,000 through fiscal year 2018 “for necessary expenses for refugee and entrant assistance activities authorized by section 414 of the Immigration and Nationality Act and section 501 of the Refugee Education Assistance Act of 1980, and for carrying out section 462 of the Homeland Security Act of 2002, section 235 of the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (‘‘TVPA’’), section 203 of the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2005, and the Torture Victims Relief Act of 1998,” according to its text released Tuesday.
In October and November, U.S. government data showed that over 10,500 unaccompanied immigrant children crossed the southern border with Mexico, according to the Washington Post. That number is more than double the count of unaccompanied minors that arrived at the border during the same time period last year.
In the event that the new temporary shelters in Texas and California are not enough to account for the surge in migrants, HHS asked the Department of Defense last week to make plans for 5,000 more shelter beds to be made available. Those additional beds are not yet needed, an agency spokesperson said.