“Unrelated Issues” Stand in the Way of Solutions to the Border Crisis



In March, then-Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen warned that “the magnitude of arriving and detained aliens has increased the risk of life-threatening incidents” and that her agency was facing “a system-wide meltdown.”

Despite her pleas for relief for border agents and DHS officers, as well as the Trump administration’s May $4.5 billion emergency funding request, Congress would not act.

The frustration with the inaction boiled over during a Wednesday hearing of the Senate Homeland Security Committee that was scheduled to address human trafficking on the border.

“Instead of actually providing funding for [Nielsen] in that period, this Congress delayed and didn’t provide the funding and didn’t engage,” declared Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) after running through the countless letters from DHS and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) imploring Congress to act.

The exasperated lawmaker took issue with his Democratic colleagues, who he said, “are trying to identify children that are not getting care [in detention centers]at the same time of slowing down the process of trying to get humanitarian aid to try and hurt this presidential election.”

One Senate colleague in particular has accumulated a record of slowing down the process. On May 23, after an agreement had been reached between the Republicans and Democrats to move on humanitarian relief, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who had only recently conceded there was a border crisis, ignored the urgency of the moment by suggesting that the Senate “put unrelated issues to the side” and vote on a separate disaster aid bill and only then “return to those unrelated issues at a later date.”

Schumer was playing politics again this week when he tried to delay a vote on the supplemental bill until an unrelated amendment on Iran was added to an unrelated bill (the National Defense Authorization Act, a $750 billion defense policy bill for 2020). At the same time, the New York Democrat was criticizing President Trump for not doing enough for migrants in detention centers and other DHS facilities.

Yes, Schumer was delaying action on a bill to give assistance to the same migrants he was accusing the administration of ignoring. The same bill that would give limited but desperately needed assistance to the overwhelmed and underfunded agents of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) struggling to manage the more than 593,000 migrants apprehended between October and the end of May.

To put that figure in perspective, it represents more apprehensions than full fiscal year totals for the previous ten years, according to the testimony of Brian S. Hastings, the chief of CBP’s Law Enforcement Operations Directorate. Hastings added that it means on any given day CBP is faced with housing between 12,000 and 18,000 detainees when – 6,000 is considered to be “a crisis level.”

The crisis has pushed CBP well beyond its capacity, which then transfers detainees to ICE, which is beyond its capacity to handle 18,000 migrants. Then, ICE transfers the detainees to HHS, which also lacks capacity to care for them. As Nielsen warned, the border agencies are in “meltdown.”

The House version of the border supplemental was so weak and laden with poison pills that it failed to pass the Senate. The radically liberal wing of the House secured several demands it had, while rejecting Republican efforts to add funding for more immigration judges, more detention space to house migrants, and even money to support National Guard and Reserve Forces deployed to the border. For example, it included a provision that prescribes a certain kind of physical exercise for unaccompanied minor children.


The Senate did pass a bipartisan bill of its own by an overwhelming 84-8 vote, which triggered negotiations over the two bills. Pelosi and her Democrat caucus wanted to make additional changes to what they passed, including cutting funding to ICE, that were so out of the mainstream that moderate members of her caucus revolted.

Even if they had backed the liberal move to neuter the immigration enforcement agency, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) rebuffed her efforts, saying he would not bring any amended bill to a vote.

“[T]hey want to claw back some of this badly-needed money from the men and women on the front lines. It looks like these cuts would represent pay cuts to ICE staff, including pay that people have already earned, and cuts to the money for investigating child trafficking,” McConnell said in addressing the Senate on Thursday morning.

Whether the delay is one more day or one more week, it was clear some members of Congress have had enough placing Band Aids on gaping wounds and hoping for the best,

Sen. Lankford’s equally irate colleague, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), said Congress was abdicating its responsibilities by failing to do what really is needed to stem the flow of illegal aliens.

“We know we need to reform the asylum system. We know we’ve got to stop the pull factors, as well as address the push factors. We know all that, but this Congress won’t do anything. This morning I’ve heard, just from my colleagues across the aisle this morning, I’ve heard statements like: ‘I’m heartbroken.’ ‘No one is more vulnerable than a child.’ ‘The status quo is unacceptable.’ ‘It is unsustainable.’ But, yet we don’t do anything to change it. And there’s no will to change it,” proclaimed Hawley.

About Author

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Jennifer joined FAIR as Web Content Writer in 2017 and brings to the role extensive communications and media background. She began her career as a policy research analyst on multiple national and state political campaigns before entering journalism. In addition to spending over a decade writing for several broadcast and print news outlets, Jennifer directed communications strategy for a member of Congress and a military nonprofit.

4 Comments

  1. avatar

    These a-holes come here illegally, then expect to be put up in a 5 star Trump Hotel? Get Sheriff Joe to set up some tents for them. Tents are good enough for our troops, they are good enough for these illegal trespassers.

  2. avatar

    When Congress, the Democrats in particular, have no problem with, and in fact encourage, rent-a-kid transactions with small children by coyotes and smugglers, they have no right to be carrying on about “the children”. It’s such a cynical corrupt charade.

    It’s cry a river about “children in cages” but better off there than being dragged through the desert repeatedly so adults can gain automatic entry. “Advocates” carry on about what bad shape the kids are in, but what do you expect when a young child faces endless miles of hot days and chilly nights sleeping in the open.

    They hold up the picture of the 2 year old and father who drowned like it proves,,,what,,,? Terrible, but how did we cause that? As always, the leftist line is they were escaping violence, but the mother said the father had talked for a long time of getting a job here and saving for a house. They say “you’re blaming the victim”.
    No the 2 year old was the victim and the father recklessly endangered her life.

    The Democratic debate was the usual “more open borders than thou” race to the left. Most of them were strong on “a path to citizenship for illegals”. Uh, why? Rewarding illegal behavior will stop it? In what alternate reality will that happen? The inescapable truth is that they know 90% of them will vote Democratic and all the free goodies that come with that. With the rest of us paying for it of course. And any Republican voting for that is voting for the demise of the party.

    • avatar

      Then Purposely Limits Bed Funding and Holding Capacity Limits at the Migrant Camps

      Then blame Trump for it all. “Trump did it”, the Open Border Party cries out, when they cut bed funding.

  3. avatar

    I fail to see how the deplorable conditions are the fault of the USA. These people broke the law, came here without resources, and now are unhappy with their conditions! Had they come in via legal means, we could have prepared for them, in limited numbers. If I prepare dinner for my family and 1000 uninviteds barge into my home and demand I feed them, isn’t this unrealistic? I may have the desire to help but unfortunately, not the means and I don’t think we should be forced to provide for invaders who are not following proper protocol.