Legislation seeks metrics to boost border funding for future migrant 'surge'

Legislation seeks metrics to boost border funding for future migrant 'surge'
© Greg Nash

House Homeland Security Committee ranking member John KatkoJohn Michael KatkoThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Democrats argue price before policy amid scramble WHIP LIST: How House Democrats say they'll vote on infrastructure bill Emboldened Trump takes aim at GOP foes MORE (R-N.Y.) is pushing legislation that would require the Biden administration to establish metrics that would trigger sending additional resources to the southern border.

The legislation would set aside $1 billion that could be used to address an influx of migration to the border, tasking the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with developing the formula that would determine what constitutes an “irregular migration surge.”

“After hearing firsthand from border patrol agents, it’s clear they need interagency backup and accountability across the federal government to appropriately handle border surges,” Katko said in a release. 

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“Agents and officers on the frontlines are suffering through another crisis, in the midst of a global pandemic, and some still haven’t been vaccinated," he continued. "We need greater confidence that the federal government can manage these crises going forward.”

The bill was filed alongside Democratic co-sponsor Rep. Henry Cuellar (Texas) and is called the Border Surge Response and Resilience Act.

Katko compared the system to those for emergencies like natural disasters, where a declaration opens the door to additional funding. The bill requires maintaining the fund's $1 billion balance through fiscal 2025.

DHS would be able to use the funds to cover expenses ranging from expanding temporary processing and holding capacity to covering overtime costs.

The legislation also calls for using non-law enforcement DHS staff to help with processing and to identify and detail surge personnel to the border when needed.

The bipartisan bill comes as recent Republican-backed legislation has sought to ensure that any immigration reform, including measures to assist "Dreamers" brought to the U.S. as children, would require more border security first.

Legislation from Rep. Maria E. Salazar (R-Fla.) would provide citizenship for Dreamers but calls for “enhanced physical barriers” at the border and swifter deportation of those with a criminal history. The legislation also includes a so-called trigger mechanism to “ensure border security is completed before other reforms take place.”