(CNSNews.com) – U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) included $134.5 million in “contingency” funding in its budget request for Fiscal Year 2016 to deal with a “future influx” of up to 104,000 unaccompanied alien children, or “UCs,” who may cross the border into the United States illegally next year.
“The budget request provides baseline funding for the care and custody of 58,000 UCs and takes steps to better prepare the Department for a future influx of UCs through a contingency fund which will provide up to $134.5 million to provide the necessary support activities required to apprehend and maintain the health and safety for up to 104,000 UCs once specific threshold levels are met,” CBP Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske said in his written statement to the subcommittee.
“Without this increase in funding, CBP will not have the flexibility to adequately respond to a significant surge of UCs in FY 2016,” Kerlikowske added in the statement.
During the hearing, Subcommittee Ranking Member Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.) asked Kerlikowske if CBP was fully prepared for another influx of unaccompanied minors in the near future.
“CBP was challenged last summer in managing the influx of unaccompanied children across the southwest border,” she said. “Are you satisfied that CBP is fully prepared to deal with a repeat of last summer’s influx, were it to occur, including addressing or being able to address the full range of needs of these children?”
“And perhaps even more importantly, are you confident that the Office of Refugee Resettlement is prepared to accept custody of the children within the 72 hours of their apprehension by CBP?” Roybal-Allard continued.
“First, yes, I am fully confident that the border patrol has much greater resources and is much more fully prepared to address this issue, with contracts in place for health care, for food service, for transportation that can be used, and an additional processing center that was purchased and equipped,” Kerlikowske responded.
Kerlikowske added that current CBP “encounters” with unaccompanied alien children is down 48 percent from this time last year, but added that “it would be a mistake to pat ourselves on the back for those lower numbers, because we don’t know what the future will bring.”
The decrease in UACs crossing the border illegally was in part due to a recent joint campaign by the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department to create a marketing campaign, entitled Dangers of the Journey to Cross the Border, which sought to inform potential border-crossers from Latin America of the perils of coming to the United States illegally, he added.
The CBP’s discretionary budget request is currently $11.5 billion, an increase of $685.5 million above the agency’s FY2015 budget.