EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Twenty-eight House members are pushing for $4 billion in emergency funding to stem the flow of fentanyl at the border and process migrants more efficiently.
In a letter to Speaker Kevin McCarthy, the Democrats emphasized the need for enhanced technology at ports of entry and more money for the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services. DHS agencies process migrants at the border, while HHS provides support services for migrants released on parole, particularly minors.
“It’s an opportunity for us to work together in a bipartisan way as the House votes on appropriations bills this month,” said U.S. Rep. Gabe Vasquez, D-New Mexico. “It includes $800 million specifically to make a dent on the fentanyl crisis that is affecting the entire country and, obviously, has its roots here on the border.”
Other sponsors include U.S. Reps. Veronica Escobar and Vicente Gonzalez, two Texas Democrats representing border districts.
The letter calls for additional acquisition of non-intrusive inspection technology so U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers can inspect a higher percentage of commercial trucks coming from Mexico to Southwestern ports of entry. Only about 15% of the thousands of trucks that cross the Mexican border every day are inspected in depth, according to lawmakers.
They say 90% of illicit drugs including fentanyl are coming through ports of entry, not over the border wall.
Republican lawmakers like Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, also have pushed for more of the so-called non-intrusive inspection technology (NII) at the border. However, Republicans have not been as eager to support more resources for released migrants and at least one conservative group called the $4 billion request a “ploy” under the guise of border security.
“The administration’s request for additional (money) for border management, immigration processing, and other programs will significantly contribute to DHS’ ability to efficiently process migrants at ports of entry, and to provide essential resources to recently released migrants through initiatives like the Shelter and Services Program,” the Democrat’s letter to McCarthy says.
The SSP program doles out money to non-federal entities that provide sheltering and other services to non-citizens apprehended by immigration agencies and then released pending the outcome of their cases. There’s an upcoming Sept. 11 deadline for non-governmental organizations to submit applications to SSP.