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Higgins announces House approval of legislation addressing humanitarian crisis at border


Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) announced the House of Representatives has approved a $4.5 billion supplemental appropriations bill (H.R. 3401) addressing the humanitarian emergency at the southern border. The legislation provides funding to address inadequate food, water, medical supplies and refugee support services for children and adults.

"The treatment this Administration is providing to human beings desperately fleeing their homes in hope of safety and refuge in America is unconscionable and does not reflect the values this nation upholds," said Congressman Higgins.  "This bill provides funding to restore the rights and dignity that all people deserve and this country should be defending."
Components of the bill include:
  • Over $1.3 billion for Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
    • Includes $92 million for food, water, sanitary items, blankets,
    • And $20 million for medical support.
  • An additional $60 million for the Emergency Food & Shelter Program through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
  • $2.9 billion in Refugee & Entrant Assistance, providing funds needed for the Unaccompanied Children program through the first quarter of FY2020
    • Includes $866 million for shelters in the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) network;
    • $100 million increase for unaccompanied children legal services and advocate programs;
    • $9 million for additional field specialists to speed the placement of children with sponsors;
    • Restores funding previously reprogrammed for the Unaccompanied Children program under the Department of Health and Human Services
  • $17 million for the Legal Orientation Program which provides immigrants with legal information
    • Includes $2 million for the immigration court helpdesk program
In addition, the legislation: requires monthly reports on unaccompanied children separated from their parents/guardians; requires 24-hour reporting of any unaccompanied children deaths; requires specific staff-to-children ratios; and directs the establishment of guidance and training to ensure facilities comply with National Standards on Transport, Escort, Detention, and Search.

Higgins, who serves as Co-Chair of the Congressional Northern Border Caucus and whose Western New York district borders Canada, also pointed to provisions in the bill that address Northern Border staffing.  H.R. 3401 directs the Homeland Security Secretary to certify the number of CBP officers assigned to Northern Border Land Ports of Entry doesn't fall below the number dictated in the 2018 Northern Border Strategy. The bill also includes more $90.6 million toward temporary duty and overtime costs for Customs and Border Protection officers, allowing for adequate staffing at northern border crossings.  Higgins and other members of the Northern Border Caucus recently objected to Department of Homeland Security plans to transfer CBP officers stationed along the northern border to posts along the southern border, concerned about the impact it would have on safeguarding and streamlining lawful trade and travel.  Higgins and his Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Elise Stefanick also recently called for 1,200 new CBP officers.  Funding for the new officers was included in the Homeland Security Appropriations bill, recently approved by the Committee on Appropriations, which will now move to the full House for a vote. 

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