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Trump signs $4.59 billion border aid package into law

US President Donald Trump holds the signed Taxpayer First Act bill in the Oval Office of the White House on July 1, 2019 in Washington, D.C. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)

President Donald Trump signed a $4.59 billion supplemental spending bill Monday for cash-strapped agencies dealing with poor conditions and overcrowded shelters for the unprecedented surge of migrants at the southern border in recent months.

His signature comes as border agencies have been under increased scrutiny for the treatment of migrants in detention facilities. The latest episode came after visits from several House Democrats on Monday, including Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Veronica Escobar of Texas and Judy Chu of California, who described inhumane conditions.

Ocasio-Cortez and Escobar were also targets of sexist and racist derision in a secret Facebook group for current and former Customs and Border Protection agents, according to an investigation by ProPublica.

The group has 9,500 members, a number commensurate to nearly half of all agents who make up the CBP, though it’s not clear that every member of the group is a border agent. ProPublica linked people who posted to the group to profiles apparently belonging to Border Patrol agents, including a supervisor in El Paso, Texas.

The House cleared the border funding measure on a 305-102 vote Thursday after several days of drama.

Facing a revolt from moderates, including freshmen facing tough reelections next year, House Democratic leaders were forced to take up a Senate-passed bill with fewer restrictions on the Department of Homeland Security and more money for Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Pentagon than a House Democratic proposal.

The Senate approved the $4.59 billion measure on an 84-8 vote Wednesday, a lopsided result that limited House Democrats’ flexibility.

In the end, more than half of the Democratic Caucus, or 129 lawmakers, supported the Senate version, while 95 Democrats opposed it. On the GOP side, only 7 voted “no.”

Speaker Nancy Pelosi was able to wrangle concessions out of the White House that can be implemented administratively, such as a 90-day limit for migrant children to stay in unlicensed influx shelters and notification to lawmakers within 24 hours if a child dies in custody.

The package includes $2.88 billion for the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement, which takes custody of migrant children from CBP or ICE before releasing them to the care of family members or other sponsors.

Another $1.34 billion is provided for DHS, including $905 million for CBP to set up temporary facilities for migrants at border stations and ports of entry and provide basic necessities like food, clothing and medical treatment.

Another $209 million is for ICE accounts, including $70 million for staffing costs such as overtime pay; $93 million for detainee transportation and medical care; $21 million to counter human trafficking operations; and $20 million for alternatives to detention, such as electronic monitoring and parole followed by check-ins.

There is also $155 million to reimburse the U.S. Marshals Service for housing and transportation of federal detainees; $145 million for the Pentagon to provide logistical support for border operations; and $30 million for Federal Emergency Management Agency reimbursements to local jurisdictions and nonprofits for the care of homeless migrants.


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