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Obama Asking Congress for $4.3 Billion for Border Crisis, Wildfires

Heather Piña Ledezma, who turned 6 on July 4, attends an immigration rally with her mother, who is from Mexico. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Heather Piña Ledezma, who turned 6 on July 4, attends an immigration rally with her mother, who is from Mexico. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 11:54 a.m. | President Barack Obama wants $3.7 billion in emergency spending from Congress to address the child migrant crisis and another $615 million for wildfires, the White House said Tuesday morning — and the top House Republican appropriator suggested his chamber would act quickly.  

A White House official said that the administration’s hope and expectation is that Congress will treat the crisis “as the urgent humanitarian situation that it is” and quickly approve the request.  

House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky., suggested appropriators will approve funding.  

“Plainly, the situation for many of these unaccompanied children is extremely dire, and the United States has both a security and a moral obligation to help solve the crisis at hand,” he said in a statement. “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 so that these problems can be mitigated in the short term. Our Committee will focus on providing what is necessary to meet these ongoing needs.  

“It is also apparent that additional funding to prevent and fight wildland fires – especially in the West where the damage has been so great — is necessary. Our Committee will review this proposal, and will respond appropriately to ensure that proper assistance is available to help the people and communities affected by these devastating fires.”  

Michael Steel, a spokesman for Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, was noncommittal.  

“The Appropriations Committee and other Members, including the working group on the border crisis led by Rep. Kay Granger, will review the White House proposal. The Speaker still supports deploying the National Guard to provide humanitarian support in the affected areas — which this proposal does not address.”  

White House officials said on a background conference call that the money is needed to “solve” the child migrant border crisis, which has overwhelmed Border Patrol and other government agencies. About half of the money would go toward beefed-up enforcement and court proceedings aimed at accelerating the deportations of the children and adults. And $1.8 billion would go to the Department of Health and Human Services to pay for the care of children and families while they await proceedings.  

The funding would also pay for alternatives to detention facilities, like ankle bracelet monitoring, according to a White House official.  

The State Department would get $300 million, which would be used in part to advertise in Central American countries to tell parents not to send the children to the United States and that they will not be allowed to stay if they arrive.  

The White House continues to separately want authority to quickly deport migrant children and adults — similar to what they have now with Mexican children at the border.  

The funding would also beef up prosecutions against smuggling gangs and improve air surveillance of the border.  

The administration also wants $615 million for wildfire suppression, which will allow the government to avoid transferring money from fire prevention activities. The administration has called for a permanent cap adjustment for wildfire suppression to avoid an annual cycle of emergency requests and transfers.  

The officials could not say how many children have been removed so far this year, how much more quickly they would be removed with the new funding or how many beds the funding would cover.  

Some Republicans have already suggested that any spending request should be offset to avoid adding to the deficit.  

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