CHN: Trump Administration Calls for Additional Border Funding along with Tougher Path for Asylum Seekers

The Trump Administration on May 1 requested an additional $4.5 billion to deal with the influx of migrants at the U.S. southern border. According to the White House, $3.3 billion of the money would be spent on humanitarian relief, including $2.8 billion for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to increase the number of shelter beds and provide services to unaccompanied children. Without Congressional action, the Administration says HHS is likely to run out of money in June and may need to “divert significant resources from other programs that serve vulnerable populations – such as refugees and victims of trafficking and torture.”

While the supplemental request did not include money for a border wall, many Democrats oppose the request. House Appropriations Chair Nita Lowey (D-NY) said in a statement, “[T]he Trump administration appears to want much of this $4.5 billion emergency supplemental request to double down on cruel and ill-conceived policies, including bailing out ICE for overspending on detention beds and expanding family detention. Locking up people who pose no threat to the community for ever-longer periods of time is not a solution to the problems at the border.” However, she agreed to review the request to see where areas of agreements could be found to improve conditions for immigrants at the border.

The border funding request may also further complicate a disaster aid package that has remain stalled for months. Some believe President Trump may hold disaster aid for Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories hostage until Democrats agree to the additional border funding. For more on the disaster aid package, see the related article in this Human Needs Report.

The funding request came just days after the Trump Administration proposed major changes to U.S. asylum policies. A presidential memorandum released April 29 directs Attorney General William Barr and Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan to, within 90 days, propose regulations to change numerous aspects of the way asylum cases are currently handled. The proposal calls for charging a fee to asylum seekers and barring anyone who crosses the border illegally from obtaining a work permit while their applications are pending. It also calls for asylum cases to be adjudicated within 180 days of filing. According to the Washington Post, this is already a requirement, but a lack of resources often means asylum seekers wait years for their hearings.

Politico reported that the Administration is also calling for “regulations that would place asylum seekers who pass a credible-fear interview or demonstrate a credible fear of torture into asylum-only proceedings. Such a change would keep them from seeking other forms of relief during the process.” Politico also notes that additional active-duty military personnel, military lawyers, and ICE officers are being sent to the border.

Many predict the President’s proposed asylum changes will face court challenges. A Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted before the memo was released shows that only 30 percent of Americans favor making it harder for those seeking asylum to obtain it.

Intensifying his attacks on immigrants, President Trump complained that Border Patrol agents who “get cute” and “get tough” with migrants in their custody would face arrest themselves, according to the Washington Post. Further, Reuters reported on May 3 that the U.S. Department of Justice was about to propose a new rule to expand its ability to deport lawful permanent residents who make use of benefits such as Medicaid, SNAP, or housing assistance, even when it is legal for them to use such aid. While it is not known what the Administration has in mind, there is little doubt that such a rule would be challenged in court. Nonetheless, there is already plenty of evidence that immigrants have dropped out of programs despite their eligibility because of fear. This new proposal will only intensify those fears and cause more people to reject help they or their children qualify for and need.