Last week, as American and Mexican officials haggled over how to address the migrant crisis at their countries’ shared border, U.S. Customs and Border Protection released its monthly migration statistics. They tell an alarming story.
In May, 144,278 migrants were taken into custody. It was the third consecutive month in which apprehensions topped 100,000 and the highest one-month total in 13 years.
Unequipped to deal with the crush, border facilities and migrant shelters are dangerously overcrowded, and the staff is overburdened. Dysfunction, disease and even death are a growing reality.
“We are in a full-blown emergency, and I cannot say this stronger: The system is broken,” said the acting commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, John Sanders.
Also last week, officials said the Office of Refugee Resettlement, the agency assigned to care for unaccompanied migrant children, would begin cutting services “not directly necessary for the protection of life and safety.” This includes English classes, legal aid and recreational programs.
Democrats and other administration critics called the move “cruel” and “illegal,” but the financial reality is the agency is overwhelmed. So far this fiscal year, it has taken charge of nearly 41,000 unaccompanied children — a 57 percent increase over last year. The entire program could run out of funding by the end of June.
In short, it is time for Congress to stop dithering and pass emergency funding to deal with this nightmare.
It has been more than a month since the administration sent Congress a request for $4.5 billion in additional border assistance. A large portion of the money, $3.3 billion, was earmarked for humanitarian aid — which most lawmakers agree is sorely needed. But a relatively modest piece of the request aimed at shoring up border security operations, roughly a quarter of the total, has tied negotiators in knots.
There is much to despise about this administration’s immigration policies, which are exacerbating this crisis, but there should be no ambivalence about the urgency of addressing the humanitarian needs. While lawmakers wring their hands and drag their feet, tens of thousands of migrant children are suffering.
Congress needs to get serious about dealing with that suffering.