/White House might need another $1.4B as border crisis blows past ‘high-end estimate’

White House might need another $1.4B as border crisis blows past ‘high-end estimate’

Border Patrol

The number of unaccompanied immigrant children is at “unprecedented levels,” according to the acting White House budget director. | Eric Gay/AP Photo

The White House cautioned congressional leaders Friday that the situation at the U.S.-Mexico border has “continued to deteriorate” since President Donald Trump first requested $4.5 billion in emergency funding this month and that $1.4 billion more could be needed.

In a letter to leaders on Capitol Hill obtained by POLITICO, the acting White House budget director said the number of unaccompanied immigrant children crossing the nation’s Southern border “has increased dramatically to unprecedented levels” and is “exceeding the previous high-end estimate.”

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At this rate, the Department of Health and Human Services will soon burn through all money available for services that involve the “immediate welfare” and “safety of human life,” said OMB’s Russell Vought.

The missive raises the stakes as the two parties work to strike a deal on disaster aid that is likely to include an emergency infusion to fulfill part of Trump’s request earlier in May for more cash to handle humanitarian needs. Democratic leaders privately told Republicans on Thursday that they are willing to include money the president seeks for humanitarian assistance, but not for keeping immigrants in detention facilities.

If Congress honors the White House’s prior request for $2.9 billion in emergency money for humanitarian assistance, the Trump administration might have enough money to fill the void, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in testimonial included in Friday’s letter to congressional leaders.

But that cash will only be enough if the inflow of immigrants does not “significantly exceed” the Department of Homeland Security’s prior “high-end scenario” prediction, Azar said.

Already this spring, the number of unaccompanied immigrant children crossing the border has surpassed the DHS predictions for April and to this date in May, Azar said. “As a result, I am concerned that the size of the deficiency could grow further, and be closer to the worst-case scenario HHS had proposed,” the HHS secretary said, noting that an extra $1.4 billion would be needed under those circumstances.

Caitlin Emma contributed to this report.

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