Chairwoman Mikulski Releases Summary of Emergency Supplemental Funding Bill

Release Date: 
Wednesday, July 23, 2014
Contact: Vince Morris (202) 224-1010                                                                                             
 
 
Chairwoman Mikulski Releases Summary of Emergency Supplemental Funding Bill
 
 
WASHINGTON, DCToday, U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), Chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, released the draft of the Emergency Supplemental Funding Bill. The bill will provide funds to fight the growing number of wildfires, to support our close ally Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile defense system and to address the humanitarian crisis on the Southwestern border.
 
Chairwoman Mikulski spoke on the Senate floor about the bill this evening and released a statement about the bill yesterday.
 
SUMMARY
For Wildfires:
 
The supplemental includes $615 million in emergency firefighting funds requested for the Department of Agriculture’s U.S. Forest Service.  These funds are needed to cover anticipated fire suppression funding shortfalls for the remainder of 2014.  These funds will prevent the Forest Service from having to borrow money from other funds, such as fire prevention, timber and construction projects or other programs.  For the past two years, Congress has been forced to appropriate more than $1 billion to repay funds that were transferred from other programs to pay for firefighting shortfalls.
 
The supplemental also includes the President’s request to authorize disaster funding for Forest Service and Department of Interior firefighting needs.  This provision is modeled on S. 1875, the bipartisan legislation authored by Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho). This bill allows disaster funding to pay for a portion of catastrophic firefighting needs, just as the United States does with hurricanes, floods and other natural disasters.  The legislation will allow Congress in future years to provide additional firefighting funds before fire season start up, to break the destructive cycle of borrowing fire prevention and other funds to put out burning fires.  The provision also prevents other important programs from being cut to pay for escalating firefighting costs.
 
For Iron Dome:
 
The bill includes $225 million in Department of Defense emergency supplemental funding for Israel to procure additional Iron Dome interceptors.  The ongoing crisis in Israel and Gaza has resulted in thousands of rockets being launched at Israeli cities and towns, and the Iron Dome missile defense system has proven highly effective at neutralizing these threats.
 
U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel wrote to congressional leadership on Tuesday, July 22, 2014, stating that the Government of Israel has asked for additional funds to maintain adequate stockpiles of Iron Dome interceptors.  The $225 million in this new request is in addition to $351 million for fiscal year 2015 that would be provided in the Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2015, reported to the full Senate on July 17, 2014.
 
 
For Border Crisis – Department of Homeland Security:
 
The supplemental provides more than $1.1 billion for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).  At this funding level:
 
  • Without these additional funds in 2014, ICE will deplete its custody and removal funding in August and Border Patrol will run out of funding in September.  Without this emergency funding, DHS will need to divert other crucial resources from critical programs to keep these two agencies operating for the rest of the fiscal year.
 
  • Funding is also provided for ICE, CBP and the DHS Inspector General to respond to immediate needs related to the surge in unaccompanied children and families early in fiscal year 2015.
 
  • Funding levels for both fiscal years 2014 and 2015 reflect the fact that more than 61,000 unaccompanied children have crossed the southern border so far in fiscal year 2014, with this figure expected to grow to 90,000 by the end of fiscal year 2014 and to 145,000 unaccompanied children in fiscal year 2015.  In addition to unaccompanied children, more than 55,000 families have been apprehended to date in fiscal year 2014; this trend is expected to continue into fiscal year 2015 as well.
 
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE):
The Senate bill fully funds the request of $116 million for transportation costs associated with the surge of apprehensions in unaccompanied children for their transfer to the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR).
 
The Senate bill also includes $586 million for the detention, prosecution and removal of undocumented families including:
 
  • Provides funds to expand and operate family detention facilities in Berks, Pennsylvania; Artesia, New Mexico; and Karnes County, Texas, as well as obtain additional family detention beds as needed. Detained individuals who do not qualify for asylum can be  removed more quickly if they are detained instead of released.  Recently, 138 family members who had recently crossed our border and were detained briefly in Artesia have been returned to their home countries.
 
  • Fully funds removal costs for undocumented families and the Alternatives to Detention program increase;
 
  • This funding level requires ICE to place more families in the Alternatives to Detention (ATD) program instead of housing them in detention facilities.  ATD’s on average costs range from pennies to $7 dollars a day for electronic monitoring, whereas family detention costs average $266 per person per day.  For families, only the adults would be on ATD so using this form of detention would result in significant cost savings.
 
Customs and Border Protection (CBP):
The Senate bill includes $291 million for operational costs associated with responding to surge of apprehensions of unaccompanied children and families.  
 
This includes funds for immediate need items for children such as meals, clothing, child care supplies, laundry and shower facilities and medical supplies and support.  It also funds agent overtime and temporary duty costs, transportation and guard contracts and emergency surge requirements for processing the children.
 
Current law requires all unaccompanied children to be transported to the ORR within 72 hours of their being determined to be unaccompanied.  CBP’s facilities were not designed nor intended to be used to detain children for any length of time.  They were designed to detain drug smugglers and adults apprehended crossing our border illegally.  ORR has the appropriate personnel and training to meet the requirements of the children, which is why funds in the Senate bill for shelters managed by Health and Human Services are directly linked to the funds for CBP and ICE.
 
Enforcement and Disrupt Activities:
It is imperative that we break up the cartels and other transnational criminal organizations which see children as a commodity for profit – much like a load of cocaine.  They lure families into sending their children on a dangerous journey and lie to the parents by claiming that children will receive a special status and be allowed to remain in the United States.
 
The Senate bill includes a total of $112 million for ICE and CBP enforcement and disruption activities to break up those smuggling and trafficking rings, expand Border Enforcement Security Task Forces and vetted units and expand air surveillance to ensure border security in the Rio Grande Valley and other areas along the Southwest border.  This will maintain the ongoing focus against traditional threats such as drug smuggling and illegal crossings by adults.
 
DHS Office of Inspector General:
The bill includes oversight funding of $1 million for the DHS Office of Inspector General to conduct site visits of detention facilities as well as screen and investigate into complaints about treatment of unaccompanied children and families apprehended at our Southwest border.
 
 
For Border Crisis – Department of Justice
 
The bill provides $124.5 million to allow the Department of Justice (DOJ) to better respond to the significant rise in unaccompanied children and adults with children at the Southwest border.  This level is an increase of $60.5 million above the President’s request with the additional funding providing more immigration judges and increasing direct legal representation and legal services for unaccompanied children.  Funding will be spent on:
 
  • New immigration judge teams: The bill provides $61.2 million, $22.5 million more than the request of $38.7 million, to begin hiring 40 new immigration judge teams.   These judges will reduce the pending case backlog, help mitigate the anticipated future increase in immigration cases and expand the children’s docket to all 59 immigration courts.  Children’s dockets are currently only available in 26 immigration courts.  DOJ’s Executive Office of Immigration Review currently has a total backlog of over 375,000 cases which includes both adults and unaccompanied children.  An additional 40 judges will reduce this caseload by 32,000 with a priority focus on unaccompanied children cases.  The 40 new judge teams are in addition to 15 temporary judge teams and the 30 new judges DOJ is currently in the process of hiring with fiscal year 2014 funds.
 
  • Legal representation services: The bill provides $50 million, $35 million above the request of $15 million, for direct legal representation services to children in immigration proceedings so children do not enter a courtroom alone.  Funding in this bill will help an estimated 20,000 children who would not otherwise receive pro bono legal support. 
 
  • Legal orientation program: The bill includes $5 million, doubling the $2.5 million request, to provide legal advice to both custodians of children and family groups going through the immigration court system.  The increased funding will primarily expand this program to new locations like Artesia, New Mexico which will house approximately 700 family units. These services also provide families and guardians with referrals to pro bono legal services, which is important because DOJ estimates that only half of the unaccompanied children currently have pro bono legal assistance in the courtroom. It will also help to reduce legal representation costs.
 
  • Immigration courtroom video equipment: The bill provides $6.7 million, same as the request, to improve and expand courtroom equipment including additional video conferencing capability to support additional immigration judge teams.
 
  • Immigration litigation attorneys: The bill provides $1.1 million, same as the request, to hire five additional immigration litigation attorneys and one paralegal to handle an anticipated increase in litigation workload for the Office of Immigration Litigation (OIL).  DOJ expects a rise in both class action lawsuits and cases filed for appeal. OIL also helps with determining if new detention facilities meet the needs of unaccompanied children.
 
  • Office of Inspector General: The bill provides $500,000, $500,000 more than the request, to ensure the Inspector General has the proper resources to monitor DOJ’s spending of these supplemental funds, and to provide grant oversight for legal representation and legal orientation programs.
 
 
For Border Crisis – Department of Health and Human Services
 
The supplemental includes $1.2 billion for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for the unaccompanied children program. This level will allow HHS to continue to expand shelter capacity and provide critical services for unaccompanied children through calendar year 2014. If the number of children continues to increase, HHS will need additional resources in fiscal year 2015 but this supplemental provides necessary resources to respond to the immediate and urgent humanitarian crisis.
 
The Senate level also allows HHS to better-manage this program and enter into contracts for shelter space and services. Without these funds, HHS would be forced to rely on more costly Department of Defense facilities and other very short-term emergency shelters. These emergency shelters can cost two to three times as much per child per day than HHS’ typical shelters. Short-term funding makes it more difficult for non-profit and faith-based organizations that actually provide services because they have to operate month-to-month with no guarantee of continued funding. Finally, less funding would also jeopardize funding for other refugee programs that HHS has been forced to divert funding from to pay for increased costs in the unaccompanied children program.
 
Ensuring basic care for children and access to critical services
After initial apprehension by DHS, HHS provides temporary housing and services for unaccompanied children, including medical care, mental health services, education, counseling, and basic legal services.  HHS is tasked with caring for unaccompanied children to protect the welfare and best interest of the child. The supplemental ensures that these basic protections for children, many of whom are fleeing unthinkable violence, are maintained.
 
Without additional funding, HHS will not be able to increase shelter capacity enough to keep up with the number children arriving in the United States. When this happens, as we have already seen this summer, children are forced to stay at border detention facilities intended for adults for extended periods of time until space opens up at an HHS-funded shelter. This situation is grossly inappropriate for children and puts a strain on DHS border security resources.
 
Many of the children transferred to HHS are fleeing severe gang and drug violence in their home countries and seeking relief in the United States and to reunite with families already living here. Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, where the vast majority of the children are from, are three of the most dangerous and violent countries in the world. Some organizations have estimated that approximately 60 percent of unaccompanied children are fleeing situations that could make them eligible for relief under U.S. and international laws.
 
Protecting existing programs and services for refugees
Under current funding levels, HHS has diverted $94 million, a 47 percent cut, from other refugee programs to pay for sudden and dramatic increases in costs in the unaccompanied children program. HHS only made this decision after exhausting all other options under current law but it will nonetheless have a dramatic impact on refugees living across the United States. The President’s supplemental request included sufficient funding to reverse this reprogramming of refugee program funds. The Senate supplemental requires HHS to reverse it, and provides adequate resources to do so.
 
These refugee programs provide a variety of social services for refugees already living in the United States and support for states and school districts with large refugee populations. Organizations providing these services, largely non-profit and faith-based organizations, were planning on receiving this funding the end of this fiscal year. However, due to the sudden increase in costs in the unaccompanied children program, HHS just notified these organizations in June they would not be receiving this funding. That has left states and non-profit organizations, many already operating on shoestring budgets, with little to no time to plan for the cut in funding.
 
Without additional funds for the unaccompanied children program this fiscal year, HHS has little choice but to divert funds from these critical programs. The United States has made a commitment to resettle refugees fleeing persecution, or a fear of persecution, due to race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. The supplemental will allow HHS to avoid making deep cuts to these critical programs and maintain that commitment.
 
 
For Border Crisis – Department of State & U.S. Agency for International Development:
 
The bill includes $300 million and authority for State-Foreign Operations will enable the Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to immediately address the contributing causes of migration from Central America, inform Central Americans of the dangers of the journey and support the safe repatriation and reintegration of the migrants from Central America.
 
The emergency supplemental bill supports the Department of State and USAID programs by:
 
  • Dismantling criminal gangs, combating other organized crime and violence (including domestic and sexual abuse), combating extortion, eliminating public sector corruption and fighting narcotics and human smuggling and trafficking;
 
  • Strengthening social services, law enforcement and judicial system capacity, with an emphasis on community policing and community violence reduction programs;
 
  • Developing child welfare services, including establishing shelters;
 
  • Providing safe educational, vocational and technical training opportunities;
 
  • Addressing obstacles to equitable economic growth and support job creation; and
 
  • Expanding the activities of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Central America.
 
The Senate bill directs that $10 million be transferred to the Department of Justice to build investigative and prosecutorial capacity to fight crime, $3 million more than the President requested. It also requires that not less than $1.5 million be transferred to the Inspectors General of the Department of State and USAID to conduct oversight of these programs.
 
Funding levels provided by the bill include:
 
  • $212.5 million under Economic Support Fund.  Authority is provided to transfer funds to the Complex Crises Fund;
 
  • $85 million under International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement;
 
  • $2 million under Diplomatic and Consular Programs to support media campaigns and public diplomacy outreach in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras to discourage families from sending children on the dangerous journey; and
 
$500,000 for Broadcasting Board of Governors for public service announcements targeted to local communities in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
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