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Federal funding for migrants raises questions

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For weeks, there’s been a high number of unaccompanied minors crossing the border and into the Rio Grande Valley. And now there are questions about how much caring for the  children is costing.

Just this week, the question of how much it’s costing to take care of migrants came up at a press conference held by U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Laredo), including the question of whether resources would be better spent in other areas.

RELATED: Congressman Henry Cuellar holds press conference over federal funding

“You want to help kids that are living in third-world conditions? No water, no sewage? Let me take you to a colonia,” Cuellar said.

UTRGV Lecturer of Criminal Justice Steve Romero says the answer to questions like these are not simple, saying a lot of the money spent on migrants is to catch, process, and detain them.

The government provides the Department of Homeland Security with that money each year, depending on the needs of the border.

“To seek a better life, that’s what these individuals are doing, and I think the United States should be able to do that, and has the resources to do that, it just has to be smart,” Romero said.

That money has nothing to do with funding for American children. But it’s funding that Romero says is running tight.

CBP's budget shows $49.8 billion for this fiscal year, which started in October 2020, as opposed to $51.7 billion in 2020’s fiscal year.

Some other expenses are:

  • • $161.2M for staff
  • • $21.0M to hire 300 Border Patrol Processing Coordinators
  • • $181.5M for facilities construction
  • • $201.6M to procure technology, aircraft, and vessels to secure the nation’s borders

This funding is actually less than CBP’s last fiscal year budget—over a billion dollars less.

“Customs and Border [Protection] is having to use money that has been set aside for that agency to house these minors, specifically,” Romero said. “They didn't have the facilities. The facilities were made to house adults.”

According to CBP, this is why the McAllen Processing Center is still being remodeled, and why there’s now a temporary processing center in Donna.

“There’s not enough people to deal with this surge, and so that has been a big problem,” Romero said. “But also, they have to feed them, they have to clothe them, they have to provide medical assistance.”

Sister Norma Pimentel of Catholic Charities says the nonprofit is using a lot of their resources to help with sheltering the migrants coming in through the Rio Grande sector. But the costs don’t end there. There’s costs of Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention—a several billion dollar budget to detain and remove.

Some immigrant data specialists are questioning why the U.S. is spending so much money on keeping people out.

“Immigrants, in general, are huge contributors to the economy,” said Chelsie Kramer with the New American Economy, a national nonprofit bipartisan immigration research and advocacy organization. “They don’t take, they give. Business people know that absolutely.”

Kramer added that Texas’ biggest resource shortage is labor—spots migrants coming from the southern border often fill.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection wasn’t immediately available for comment on this story.

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