CHN: Border Security Funding Up in the Air, as is Deferred Medical Status

Funding decisions for the Department of Homeland Security, including the border wall and other controversial measures such as additional detention beds and other immigration enforcement activities, appear to have been punted well into November.

On September 27, President Trump signed a stopgap spending measure enacted by Congress that keeps government running through Nov. 21 (see related article in this Human Needs Report for more information).

The House and Senate also passed a joint resolution that would overturn President Trump’s emergency declaration at the southern border, a declaration that, for now, has allowed him to divert other government spending to build his wall. But the votes – 236-174 in the House and 54-41 in the Senate, with 11 Republicans in each chamber joining all Democrats in each chamber – did not represent the two-thirds majorities that would be needed to override an anticipated presidential veto. President Trump vetoed a similar resolution back in March.

Meanwhile, on Friday, Sept. 20, the Washington Post reported that the Trump Administration plans – once again – to divert billions of dollars in military funding to pay for border wall construction next year, a way to circumvent congressional opposition to the measure.

The Trump Administration is striving to complete nearly 500 miles of new barriers by the 2020 elections. But, the Post reported, that construction goal will require a total of $18.4 billion in funding through 2020, far more than the Administration has publicly disclosed. The Post obtained documents that show the cost of building the wall works out to $36 million per mile. And the newspaper said the Administration plans once again to divert $3.6 billion from military funding to pay for the wall – equal to the amount it already has planned to divert. Some of that money currently is slotted to pay for child care centers and schools on military bases; other dollars were intended to pay for needed maintenance.

The diversion, which is sure to again be challenged in court, is intended as a work-around to action taken earlier this summer by the House Appropriations Committee. That committee passed a bill that provides no funding whatsoever for new border barriers, additional Border Patrol agents or new Border Patrol checkpoints. It also prohibits the use of funds for the detention or removal of DACA recipients and certain ICE and CBP raids and other immigration enforcement activities.

Meanwhile, earlier this month, two Trump Administration officials appeared before the Civil Rights and Civil Liberties subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee to explain the Administration’s decision, since reversed, sort of, to deny requests for seriously ill immigrants – including children – who are receiving lifesaving medical treatment in the United States to be allowed to remain here for treatment.

According to the Washington Post, two DHS officials, Timothy S. Robbins, acting executive associate director of enforcement and removal operations, and Daniel Renaud, associate director, field operations directorate, would not answer the following questions:

  • Who came up with the policy?
  • What was the reason for the policy?
  • Did it come from the White House?
  • What section of DHS issued the directive?
  • Is there even an official policy in writing somewhere?
  • Did anyone think to calculate the potential loss of life?

The two Trump Administration officials said they could not answer the questions because of pending litigation (a Boston-based human rights group has sued the Administration).

But the stonewalling led an exasperated Rep. Jamie B. Raskin (D-MD), who chairs the subcommittee, to tell the Post, “The only thing saving us from the utter depravity of the Trump Administration is its rank incompetence. I was flabbergasted by the performance of these government officials who could not tell Congress who is behind this policy, why it was adopted, where it came from, when it goes into effect or even what it is.”

Back in August, immigrant families with very sick children began receiving letters from the federal government informing them that their application to stay in the U.S. under medical deferred action had been denied, and they had 33 days to leave the country, meaning their children would have to forgo additional medical treatment.

After news of the letters broke the Trump Administration backtracked, saying the families would be allowed to remain in the U.S. However, the Administration has been unable to state what will happen with future applications for medical deferred status, and has broadly hinted that few applications will be approved.

border wall