WASHINGTON — The Obama administration renewed its plea Monday for Congress to provide additional money to deal with the unaccompanied migrant children at the border. The request seemed likely to fall on deaf ears as neither party showed an appetite to revive the issue.
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said in a statement that without the $1.2 billion in additional funding for 2015, he will be forced to take money from other accounts, such as $405 million moved earlier this summer from the disaster relief fund.
“This reprogramming is not sustainable, and leaves the nation vulnerable to unacceptable homeland security risks,” Johnson said.
But a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said that the House had already dealt with the issue by agreeing to a smaller sum prior to Congress’ five-week summer recess, which ended Monday. “The House has already passed a border supplemental, along with much-needed reforms. Now, it is up to Senate Democrats to act,” said spokesman Michael Steel.
No deal was ever reached with the Senate and no final bill ever passed. But with arrivals of Central American children down substantially at the border, the issue is now on the back burner on Capitol Hill and looks likely to stay there during the couple weeks Congress is in session ahead of November’s midterms.
The administration might get some additional spending flexibility it’s asked for in a temporary government funding measure slated for votes the next two weeks.
In his statement Johnson notes that only 3,141 unaccompanied kids crossed the border illegally in August, compared with a high of 10,622 in June as the crisis peaked. The administration has taken a number of steps to respond, such as reassigning immigration judges, but much of the reduction is seasonal as the summer heat has traditionally discouraged migrants.
The spike on the border pushed the issue near the top of public concerns and it was front-and-center at some congressional town halls earlier in the summer. But now it’s been overtaken by other events including terrorist threats overseas.