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Democrats Lead Effort to Reimburse Border Communities Providing Humanitarian Relief

Commentary: Last week, Congresswoman Xochitl Torres-Small (NM-02), Congressman Henry Cuellar (TX-28), and Congresswoman Veronica Escobar (TX-16) lead a letter sent to the Congressional and Appropriations Committee leaders, urging them to allocate funds in the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), State and Local Programs for reimbursements to local governments and non-governmental organizations that acquired costs providing humanitarian relief at our southern border. 

The lawmakers released the following statements:

“The situation along the southern border continues to change rapidly, and as a result of the federal government’s inadequate response, local communities and NGO’s are being forced to step up and fill the void,” said Congresswoman Torres-Small. “However, their resources are being stretched beyond capacity. It is time the federal government acknowledge the realities on the ground and pass a DHS supplemental that reimburses local governments and NGOs who are providing shelter and aid.  We cannot stop there, it is critical that we also address the backlog in our immigration courts stemming from the shortage of judges and provide more resources and support staff to assist CBP agents who are currently doing jobs they aren’t trained to perform.”

“The influx of migrants has placed an incredible strain on local governments and NGOs in Texas,” said Congressman Cuellar. “Since 2015, I have worked to secure language in appropriations bills authorizing FEMA to allow Homeland Security Grant Program recipients located along the Southwest border to use grant funding for costs, or reimbursement of costs, related to providing humanitarian relief to unaccompanied children and adults accompanied by a minor after entering the United States. These reimbursements will allow for humane treatment of families by providing them with basic needs such as food, water and medicine. I urge Congressional and Appropriations Leadership to continue this bipartisan precedent and help border communities who have faced an unduly costs of administering humanitarian relief at our southern border.”

“As the Trump administration implements hateful and senseless immigration policies, border communities like El Paso continue to shoulder the financial responsibility of upholding our nation’s tradition of welcoming asylum-seeking families in pursuit of the American Dream,” said Congresswoman Escobar. “While I admire the goodwill and generosity of local governments and NGOs, I am once again urging congressional appropriators to lead responsibly and ensure border taxpayers get reimbursed for the humanitarian relief they provide to migrants.”

The letter was also signed by Members of Congress who represent districts on states along the U.S.-Mexico border: Filemon Vela (TX-34), Vicente González (TX-15), Will Hurd (TX-23), Ann Kirkpatrick (TX-02), J. Luis Correa (CA-46), Raúl M. Grijalva (AZ-03), Scott H. Peters (CA-52), Juan Vargas (CA-51), and Susan A. Davis (CA-53).  

The letter reads:

Dear Colleagues,

As you continue working on a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) supplemental appropriations bill, we urge you to increase Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), State and Local Programs, accounts for each Southwest border state that has been experiencing a high influx of migrants seeking asylum at the border. Furthermore, we respectfully request you include a legislative provision that would allow for these funds to be used to reimburse local governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that have incurred costs while providing humanitarian relief at the border.

The full letter is available here.