Chairman Carper: Congress Failure to Act on Border Crisis Could Have Severe Consequences

WASHINGTON – Today, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, released the following statement after the Senate failed to consider the Emergency Supplemental Funding Bill, introduced by Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee. Chairman Carper voted to advance the measure; however it was blocked by a budget point of order. The measure included funds to address the humanitarian challenge at the southern border:

“I am deeply disappointed in the Senate for refusing to move forward with the President’s request for emergency funding to deal with the humanitarian crisis we are facing on our southern border.  I believe that we have a moral imperative to address this crisis with a humane response, one that honors our obligations under U.S. and international law – and one that is consistent with the admonition that we should love our neighbors as we love ourselves while taking care of the least of these in society. We haven’t even come close to meeting that moral imperative here today.

“As we all know, over the past several months, our nation has experienced an unprecedented surge in migration from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.  People from these countries are fleeing desperate, violent conditions and a large number of them are families, and unaccompanied children—some as young as four years old. The Administration responded with an all-hands-on-deck effort and these measures have been working to stabilize the situation. But these emergency measures are expensive, and none of federal agencies involved have the money they need to sustain the aggressive steps they are taking to deal with this situation. In fact many agencies have indicated that they will run out of money in a matter of weeks without action.

“Senator Mikulski introduced a bill that would provide $2.7 billion in order to address the situation and ensure that the agencies charged with securing our borders don’t run out of money this summer.  More importantly, it would also address some of the underlying root causes of the problem we face. But yet again, Congress has failed to act. The consequences of our inaction could be severe.  For example, without this emergency funding, Immigration and Customs Enforcement could be forced to release thousands of people currently being detained and to stop operating repatriation flights. Health and Human Services could be forced to cut back on the number of children it can care for. Children would be forced to stay longer at Border Patrol stations and Border Patrol agents would spend their time taking care for children and less time pursuing the smuggling networks operating along our borders.

“Because of our inability to meet our obligation to act today, it is expected that the Administration will be forced to take steps to avoid those dire consequences by shifting money and resources from other critical operations to help the affected agencies get through August.  But this will also have severe consequences. For example, it would impair our border security because the Department of Homeland Security may have to reduce aerial support for the Border Patrol and stop replacing badly needed x-ray machines at our ports of entry.  Our ability to respond to natural disasters could also be harmed, at the height of hurricane season. In short, we are robbing Peter to pay Paul.

“Finally, we will leave here without doing anything to address the underlying factors that explain why this surge is happening in the first place. The President and Senator Mikulski included $300 million in the supplemental package to address what I believe to be the root causes of this surge: the lack of economic opportunities, jobs, and hope in Central America, combined with increasing violence and insecurity in the region. I am not suggesting that any of this will be quick or easy fix.  It will require a sustained investment—and focus—on the region by the U.S. and also by a number of others. But if we turn our backs on these countries now, I am convinced that we will be back here again 10 years from now dealing with another expensive humanitarian crisis on our border.

“But today, we are leaving here empty-handed, and all by our own doing. Ordinary working people do not close up shop with urgent work still undone, and neither should we. And there is plenty of blame to go around; there is a strong chance the House will leave town without taking action on this crisis either. The Administration has asked for money, but has yet to speak clearly on what changes it needs in the law governing how we handle unaccompanied minors at the border. This failure of leadership on all of our parts is unacceptable. Over the next few weeks and into September, I urge my colleagues in both chambers and the Administration to think about ‘the least of these’ that we have left behind today and to work harder to come together and find a compromise to this challenge.”