Monday, April 15, 2024

DHS will be seeking a legislative proposal to address border crossings

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen will ask Congress for the authority to deport unaccompanied migrant children more quickly, to hold families seeking asylum in detention until their cases are decided and to allow immigrants to apply for asylum from their home countries, according to a copy of the request obtained by NBC News.

In a letter to Congress, Nielsen said she will be seeking a legislative proposal in the coming days to address what she called the “root causes of the emergency” that has led to a spike in border crossings in recent weeks. The letter has not yet been sent.

The legislative proposal would have to clear the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, which is likely to respond with strong opposition. Since February, Customs and Border Protection has seen a jump in the number of undocumented immigrants attempting to cross the border each day.

Daily border crossings have recently hit 13-year high, leading immigration agents to release immigrants from their custody rather than transferring them to prolonged detention. The influx has left many charities in the United States and Mexico scrambling to provide care and has left many asylum-seekers waiting in dangerous areas without shelter on the southern side of the border.

Under current law, children from Central America, are transferred to the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services, which works to reunite them with a relative or sponsor in the U.S. And under a federal court agreement, immigrant families with children cannot be detained longer than 20 days. In the letter, Nielsen makes the case that the law’s limitations on the ability of the DHS to deport migrant children is serving as “another dangerous ‘pull’ factor.”

The letter also indicates that the Trump administration will be requesting emergency funds to deal with the migrant flow, including what Nielsen predicts to be thousands of shelter beds for unaccompanied migrant children. Nielsen said that the exact dollar amount of the request is still being worked out, but a senior administration official told NBC News the request is likely to be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The funding would also cover more medical teams and vehicles to transport immigrants, following the deaths of immigrants in the custody of CBP agents who were not able to provide care in time.