Congress to vote for $4.5bn in extra funds for US migrant crisis

Crisis deepens over conditions at detention centres holding children

House speaker Nancy Pelosi has struggled to keep all her members in line as she seeks agreement on a $4.5 billion funding Bill. Photograph: Gabriella Demczuk/The New York Times

House speaker Nancy Pelosi has struggled to keep all her members in line as she seeks agreement on a $4.5 billion funding Bill. Photograph: Gabriella Demczuk/The New York Times

 

Members of the US House of Representatives were expected to vote for $4.5 billion (€3.96 billion) in extra funds to help address the deepening crisis on the southern border, amid growing public outrage over the conditions at detention centres holding children.

US immigration services moved more than 200 children from a facility in Clint, Texas to other temporary centres this week amid reports of overcrowding and unhygienic conditions.

Lawyers who visited the facility on June 17th, having been granted permission in connection with an ongoing court case, reported appalling conditions inside the facility, where children as young as eight were minding infants, and children were denied access to toothbrushes, soap and other basic needs such as nappies. Media representatives have not been permitted to enter the facility.

There were reports on Tuesday that some of those children were being moved back to the same centre, though this was not confirmed.

The development comes amid the news that John Sanders, the acting head of US Border and Customs Protection – the government agency charged with overseeing detentions and border enforcement – is resigning in the coming weeks.

As Congress considers new funding measures to help alleviate the situation at the border, House speaker Nancy Pelosi has struggled to keep all her members in line as she seeks agreement on a $4.5 billion funding Bill.

The Senate passed a similar package last week, but some House Democrats raised concern at a meeting on Monday night that authorising money to be used by the Trump administration could in fact lead to officials engaging in more draconian measures such as speeding up deportations, rather than deploying the funds for humanitarian needs.

Standards

A revised proposal tabled on Tuesday included provisions obliging custom officials to uphold health and nutrition standards for children and adults as well as a limit on the amount of time unaccompanied migrant children can spend at an arrival shelter.

Those changes were expected to win the support of most of the Democratic caucus, and the Bill was expected to pass. The House is under pressure to reach agreement before Congress breaks on Thursday for the July 4th congressional recess next week.

The renewed focus on conditions at the southern border, where tens of thousands of migrants arrive each month, comes as Donald Trump delayed by two weeks an order to round up undocumented migrants and deport as many as 2,000 families.

On Saturday, Mr Trump announced he was delaying the decision by two weeks at the request of Democrats, calling on Congress to fix loopholes in the immigration system. “If not, Deportations start!” he tweeted.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) officers are expected to begin the crackdown in cities such as Houston, Miami, Chicago, Baltimore and other cities with a high population of undocumented immigrants. Officials said they would focus on immigrants who had missed court appearances or had already been served deportation orders.