US Congress clashes over border funding

Reuters . United States | Published: 00:00, Jun 28,2019

 
 

Asylum seekers waiting in hopes of being let through the nearby US port of entry line up for a meal provided by volunteers at a makeshift migrant camp by the Gateway International Bridge in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexico, on Wednesday. — Reuters photo

The US House and Senate will try to resolve their conflicting versions of an emergency funding bill on Thursday to address worsening humanitarian conditions for migrant children and families on the US-Mexico border.

The republican-controlled Senate passed by an overwhelming 84-8 vote a $4.6 billion spending bill on Wednesday. The democratic-led House of Representatives on Tuesday night tied more strings to its approval of the money, setting standards for health and nutrition of migrants in custody after reports they lacked necessities such as soap and diapers.

A photo of drowned migrants, and reports of horrendous conditions for detained children have spurred efforts to craft compromise legislation to send to US president Donald Trump before Congress recesses this week for the US Independence Day holiday.

Whether Trump will sign a deal is uncertain as he continues to push for spending on the kind of border security some Democratic adversaries blame for migrant deaths.

Trump has made cracking down on immigration a centrepiece of his administration but officials are saying they will run out of money for border agencies soon. Border crossings hit the highest level in over a decade in May, straining resources and creating chaotic scenes at overcrowded border patrol facilities.

The need for funding has become more urgent as attorneys last week called attention to more than 300 children detained in squalid conditions at a border patrol facility in Clint, Texas. Trump has made building wall along the southern border a key goal of his administration but government officials say they need money to keep migrant housing facilities open past month end.

Border crossings hit their highest monthly level since 2006 in May, with over 60% of migrants either children or families, mostly from Central America.

Lawyers and human rights workers said they found sick and hungry children when they visited a border patrol facility in Clint, Texas earlier this month.

‘Many had been detained for weeks, one even up to a month in really horrific conditions,’ said Clara Long, senior researcher at Human Rights Watch.

The conditions of unaccompanied children crossing the border has become a key issue in the 2020 presidential race. During Wednesday night’s debate, many of the Democratic candidates called for an overhaul of US immigration laws and about 12 of them are set to visit a Florida facility this week.

A photo of a Salvadoran father and his toddler daughter who drowned attempting to cross the Rio Grande added urgency on both sides of the aisle to reach a funding deal.

Trump criticised the House bill on Wednesday, telling Fox Business Network he wanted more money for ‘protection’ from the drug traffickers and other criminals he says are taking advantage of the family surge to slip into the country.

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