It’s not just Texas that’s busing illegal immigrants deep into the country — Uncle Sam is doing it too by paying nonprofit organizations tens of millions of dollars to help transport and settle migrants into more communities.
The Biden administration is sending the money through the Federal Emergency Management Agency via a program created in the 1980s to deal with homelessness.
In recent years, that homeless mission has been overtaken by the task of helping illegal immigrants who have been caught and released at the border take their first steps toward settling in the U.S.
President Biden asked this month for an infusion of cash for the Emergency Food and Shelter Program at FEMA. He said the border situation has become too much to handle with current funding.
He also sought an infusion for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement so the deportation agency can help shuttle migrants around the country, and he asked for $1.8 billion more for the Health and Human Services Department to house illegal immigrant children and provide assistance more broadly to other border jumpers.
The requests are part of the administration’s proposal for continuing government funding into fiscal 2023, which starts Oct. 1. Congress hasn’t made progress on the annual spending bills and is expected to pass a continuing resolution that would maintain 2022 funding levels into the next fiscal year.
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Still, Mr. Biden said some needs are urgent, and immigration spending is part of that. In a document submitted to Congress, the White House blamed “emerging needs along the southern border.”
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, the top Republican on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs appropriations subcommittee, said the money the White House is requesting doesn’t begin to address the fundamentals of the border crisis.
“The Biden administration needs to address the crisis at the border more broadly than in any CR anomaly,” she told The Washington Times in a statement. “We have surpassed over 2 million migrants for the fiscal year, yet they continue to avoid the decisions that can help us actually stem this crisis.”
Mr. Biden is more than a year and a half into the migrant surge. Although the overall monthly numbers have dipped, they are still running at a near-record pace. In July, U.S. officials encountered nearly 200,000 unauthorized migrants at the border.
Most were caught and then released.
Texas, which has been slammed by the surge, has been busing migrants to Democratic-run cities as a way of sharing the pain. The state is sending willing migrants to Chicago, New York and the District of Columbia. Arizona is also busing migrants across its borders.
The Biden administration said those efforts undermine the Homeland Security Department’s ability to keep track of the released migrants.
Instead, the administration wants to rely on the Emergency Food and Shelter Program. The 1980s-era homeless assistance program has become a chief vehicle for helping migrants caught and released at the border get where they want to go.
The program pays for bus, plane or train travel at economy seat pricing. It also helps pay for housing and food.
The program is governed by a board made up of nonprofits such as the United Way and Catholic Charities. That board decides how to spend the taxpayer money, which experts said effectively shields decisions about migrant transportation from the public.
“This is taxpayer money,” said Andrew “Art” Arthur, a legal fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies. “The American people have a right to know where this money is going.”
He said that could be particularly relevant as leaders in New York and the District blame Texas for flooding their jurisdictions with illegal immigrants. He acknowledged that the federal government also is transporting some migrants.
A woman who answered the phone at the Emergency Food and Shelter Program said workers have been directed to refer all press inquiries to FEMA. When The Times contacted FEMA, the agency referred questions to the White House, which didn’t respond to The Times for this article.
The focus on border jumpers has overtaken the Emergency Food and Shelter Program’s mission of helping the homeless.
In the current fiscal year, the homeless portion of the program was allocated $130 million and the migrant portion received $150 million, Mr. Arthur said.
Given the secrecy, it’s impossible to know how many migrants the Emergency Food and Shelter Program has paid to be moved or how much has been spent specifically on transportation.
Texas announced on Friday that it had crossed the 10,000-migrant mark in its busing campaign, with 7,900 sent to the District, 2,200 to New York and 300 to Chicago.
As of mid-August, when the total was 8,000, the state had spent $14 million on the effort, according to local news reports.
Critics say the state is paying for a job the federal government should be doing.
Mr. Biden is certainly trying.
In addition to more Emergency Food and Shelter Program money, he requested permission to shift funding within ICE toward “transportation and removal” operations.
ICE regularly flies migrants to destinations in the U.S., but the pace of those flights has increased dramatically with the border surge and catch-and-release policies.
The increased flights have renewed attention, with reports of “secret” late-night arrivals that local reporters said seem aimed at keeping the extent of the migrant movements under wraps.
Mr. Arthur said the government’s willingness to pay for migrants’ transportation is another incentive for jumping the border.
“Should American taxpayers be spending money for someone who paid $7,000 to a smuggler to come to the United States?” he said. “They’ve got money. They wouldn’t be here if they didn’t.”