Saying the U.S. Border Patrol is overwhelmed by an influx of minors crossing the border illegally, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has asked the Obama administration for $30 million for state-based border security operations.
“With the Border Patrol’s focus shifted to this crisis, we have grave concerns that dangerous cartel activity, including narcotics smuggling and human trafficking, will go unchecked because Border Patrol resources are stretched too thin,” Abbott wrote to U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson. “Securing the U.S.-Mexico border is the federal government’s responsibility. Because that simply is not happening, the State of Texas is seeking emergency funding to help support state-based border security initiatives.”
Abbott, the Republican nominee for governor, said the Texas Department of Public Safety is ready to “swiftly launch” a border-security operation that would cost about $1.3 million per week. The funds would pay for overtime for troopers who work 12-hour shifts, as well as fuel and lodging.
“Unless the Department of Homeland Security or another federal agency provides funding, the cartels — which are central to this crisis — will prevail because they profit from each illegal border crossing,” Abbott wrote. “With the requested aid, though, the Texas DPS can apply its proven record of success to help staunch this cartel-driven border security problem.”
The Texas Tribune thanks its sponsors. Become one.
Since October, the Rio Grande Valley sector of the U.S. Border Patrol has apprehended about 33,500 of the estimated 47,000 unaccompanied minors who have crossed the border illegally, Abbott affirmed. Most of the children are from Central America. About 160,000 total apprehensions have been made in the sector, Abbott added.
Calls to the Rio Grande Valley Border Patrol offices seeking comment were not immediately returned.
The request comes after a U.S. Senate committee on Tuesday approved an additional $2 billion to help deal with the influx, which the Obama administration has called a “humanitarian crisis.” Last week, the administration instructed the Federal Emergency Management Agency to lead a multi-agency task force to address the issue. The funds are earmarked for the Health and Human Services department, which takes custody of the minors after they are processed. The U.S. House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday also approved an additional $78 million for U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement to address overcrowding due to the surge, the office of U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar announced in a statement.
By law, children apprehended by the U.S. Border Patrol are required to be turned over to the Health and Human Services department within 72 hours. On a conference call with reporters this week, however, White House officials said that is not always possible due to the skyrocketing number of children the U.S. Border Patrol is seeing.