The NCSL Blog


By Chesterfield Polkey

The Senate Committee on Appropriations, led by Senators Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), passed its first appropriations bill of the 116th Congress, the bipartisan border supplemental appropriations bill, by a vote of 30-1 on June 19. Senator Jeff Merkley (R-Ore.) was the lone “no” vote.

Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala., right, and Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., prepare for a committee markup Wednesday of an emergency spending bill to address the influx of migrants at the southern border. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)The supplemental bill addresses the humanitarian crisis at the southern border and would increase funding for migrant care and shelter, the appointment of new immigration judges, and improvements to immigration data systems and counter-human trafficking operations.

During the Appropriations Committee Hearing, many Democrats criticized the bill for its lack of proposed foreign aid to address the impoverished and violent conditions of countries within the Northern Triangle of Central America, which includes Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. They noted these countries have seen a mass exodus of migrants in the past few years. The appropriations breakdown below indicates how much funding would be allocated to each federal department.

Department of Justice: $220 million

  • Thirty new immigration judge teams.
  • Legal Orientation Program (LOP) for educating detainees about the immigration court process.
  • Emergency expenditures related to housing, transportation, and care for federal detainees under custody of the U.S. Marshals Service.

Department of Defense: $145 million

  • Operating expenses for Army, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Army National Guard to support missions including medical assistance, mobile surveillance and other activities.

Department of Homeland Security: $1.34 billion

Customs and Border Protection (CBP): $1.1 billion

  • $793 million: establish and operate migrant care and processing facilities to improve conditions at border stations and ports of entry.
  • $112 million: migrant medical care and consumables.
  • $110 million: travel and overtime costs.
  • $50 million: improvements to immigration data systems and tools.
  • $35 million: transportation of migrants among facilities.
  • Two provisions also emphasize the CBP’s efforts to meet national standards within migrant processing facilities and the CBP’s commitment to staffing the northern border.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE): $209 million

  • $48 million: transportation of unaccompanied children and migrants among facilities.
  • $70 million: travel, overtime costs, and pay adjustments for on-board staff.
  • $45 million: detainee medical care.
  • $21 million: counter-human trafficking operations.
  • $20 million: alternatives to detention.
  • $5 million: background investigations and facilities inspections.

Federal Emergency Management System (FEMA): $30 million

  • Reimburse states, local governments, and non-governmental organizations for care of homeless migrants.

Department of Health and Human Services: $2.88 billion

  • Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC) Program.
  • Expands shelter capacity, funds full-range of services for children in care and prevents the HHS from having to divert funding from other important programs.
  • Establishes several provisions to ensure safety and welfare of children in HHS custody including improving standards for all facilities, creating access for members of Congress have access to shelters, and requiring the HHS to provide publicly available information on all UACs who have been separated from their parent(s).

The bill is anticipated to be considered by the full Senate before the July 4 recess. For more information on the immigration and asylum process, please refer to NCSL’s Primer on U.S. Immigration for State Policy Makers.

Chesterfield Polkey is the Emerson Hunger Fellow at NCSL.

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This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.