Acting DHS Secretary: Denying Money for ICE Beds Contributed to Overcrowded Conditions

Melanie Arter | July 19, 2019 | 10:47am EDT
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(Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP/Getty Images)

( – Congress’s unwillingness to provide additional funding for beds for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to detain illegal immigrants has contributed to the overcrowded conditions at Customs and Border Protection (CBP) facilities, acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan said Thursday during a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on the Trump administration’s treatment of migrant children.

McAleenan said that the two-month delay in emergency supplemental funding for CBP also contributed to the problem of overcrowding and lack of resources for migrant detainees.


Ranking member Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) asked McAleenan if it would have helped if he had gotten the resources when he asked for them.




MCALEENAN: Of course.

JORDAN: When’d you become secretary?

MCALEENAN: I became acting secretary on April 8th or April 10th of this year.

JORDAN: A couple weeks later, you asked for money, didn’t you?


JORDAN: You asked for money, because they won’t address the underlying problem, what’s causing the problem. They won’t fix the asylum law, won’t fix Flores, won’t build the border security law, say it’s not a crisis, say it’s manufactured, it’s contrived when it actually is a crisis. Then the crisis gets even worse, and then they blame you, who took the position in April and asked for help three weeks later. And then they wait two and a half months to send the money, and when they send the money, we had the picture a little bit ago of the 40 individual males, adult males in the facility. You ask for ICE bed money. What’d they say?

MCALEENAN: They didn’t provide it.

JORDAN: Didn’t provide it, and yet, you’re the bad guy. You take the position in April, ask for resources a couple weeks later. They deny the resources for two and a half months, and then when the problem gets so bad, they say, ‘Oh, it’s your fault,’ even though you’ve been trying to address the underlying problem, and then when they won’t do that, you say, at least give us money to fix the crisis that you all helped us create, because you wouldn’t address the underlying problem. It gets so bad they finally send the money, but they still put limitations on you, because they want the political issue when we’re talking about kids. We all care about the kids. This is ridic—Let me ask you this. We all know there’s a crisis on the border. Does accusing CBP agents of torture help with the crisis?

MCALEENAN: In no way.

JORDAN: Does accusing CBP agents of working at concentration camps help with the crisis?

MCALEENAN: No, it obfuscates the real issues.

JORDAN: When the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee accuses folks down there working hard of negligent homicide, does that help with the crisis?

MCALEENAN: Of course not.

JORDAN: Would abolishing ICE help with the crisis?


JORDAN: Would abolishing your entire agency help with the crisis?


JORDAN: Does waiting 10-- two and a half months to get the $4.6 billion you asked for two weeks after you took the job, does that help with the crisis?

MCALEENAN: No, and it left children in these situations way too long, and we’ve proven that as soon as we got the resources, we were able to put them in a much better situation.

JORDAN: Does denying money for ICE beds help with the problem?

MCALEENAN: No, that’s contributing to overcrowding that still exists today.

JORDAN: I don’t know how many times you’ve said it already. You said it with Mr. Royce and I think Mr. Keller. Two things right now would help – give you the money for the ICE beds and fix Flores, and I think you said to Mr. Keller, you think that would be almost immediate action, immediate help. Within a couple weeks, you would see the message sent, so these people won’t take this dangerous trip. That would help immediately. Is that right?

MCALEENAN: That is right.

JORDAN: Yet, the majority doesn’t want to do it, doesn’t want to do. The chairman just called it a deficit—he accused you and your agents and your agency of a deficit of empathy. Want to respond to that, Mr. Secretary?

MCALEENAN: I can tell you that the men and women of DHD---

JORDAN: Where’s that picture? I’m gonna interrupt you one second, then I want you to take as long as you want. Put that picture up. Does that look like a deficit of empathy right there?

MCALEENAN: Not at all.

JORDAN: That’s the kind of stuff that happens every day on the border, doesn’t it?


Jordan pointed to a photo of a Border Patrol agent helping a migrant child and woman.

McAleenan said Border Patrol agents have taken classes to be emergency medical technicians during their downtime so that they can “help people in dangerous conditions.”


MCALEENAN: Right. I just wonder why would an agency, if they have a deficit of empathy, create a Border Search Trauma and Rescue team to try to protect people that are making this dangerous crossing. They make over 4,000 rescues a year on their own time and with the collateral duty apply to be emergency medical technicians so they can help people in dangerous conditions. Where’s the deficit of empathy there? These are predominantly Latino Border Patrol agents. They have children of their own, and they’re out there trying to protect them on the line and trying to do the best they can to take care of them—

JORDAN: You just said something there. You said they’re predominantly Latino Border agents.

MCALEENAN: That’s correct.

JORDAN: The majority of your Custom and Border Patrol agents are of Latino descent, Hispanic descent?

MCALEENAN: Border Patrol agents. Yes.

JORDAN: Just doesn’t help. It doesn’t help. At some point … we have to get past all this and focus on what is driving the problem, and we all know what it is. Flores has to be fixed. The asylum law has to be—the loopholes, that has to be addressed, and frankly, while we’re getting that done, why don’t we give you a few more dollars so you can take these adult males, have enough beds for them so they’re not in the kind of facility that the picture (that) was put up earlier. Right?

MCALEENAN: That’d be great.

JORDAN: And oh by the way, oh by the way, maybe if we had a border security wall that would help as well, because not all these people are coming to ports of entry. A lot of folks are coming across too. I mean all this is part of the problem. Let’s fix it. Let’s fix it instead of just, instead of just saying the things we’ve been saying.


In February, Congress approved a deal to provide funding for ICE beds at the current level of 42,520 beds, despite a request from the Trump administration for 52,000 beds.

In June, Congress approved $4.5 billion in supplemental funding. Of that money, $2.9 billion will go the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to care for migrant children, while $1.3 billion will go to DHS to improve detention facilities, but Congress expressly prohibits DHS from using that $1.3 billion for more beds at detention centers.



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