Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson argued Wednesday that there are more cost-effective and efficient ways to confront the ongoing border crisis than President Obama’s emergency funding request for $3.7 billion to be dispersed across multiple agencies.
“The $300 million dollar [State Department] request for – I guess improving conditions in those Central American countries… You know, we’re finding we’re not particularly good at improving our own economy. Isn’t it a pipe dream to spend $295 million trying to improve the conditions and expecting that is going to solve the problem, as opposed to sending planeloads full of these kids back to their families?” Johnson asked during a Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing.
Tuesday, President Obama submitted a request to Congress for $3.7 billion in emergency funding to deal with the ongoing situation at the border. Since October an unprecedented 52,000 unaccompanied minors have been apprehended illegally crossing the southern border, most believing they can stay.
“I think we need to be doing everything we can on all levels – both promoting economic growth, expanding repatriation, sending more people back. All of these things have to be done; this is a complex problem, and there is no easy simple solution,” said Francisco Palmieri, the State Department’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Central America and the Caribbean in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs.
“There are things that are going to be far more effective and far less costly,” Johnson responded, arguing the Obama administration’s request for $3.7 billion to take on the border crisis represents tens of thousands of dollars per unaccompanied illegal immigrant child.
“Literally, if we were to buy a plane ticket, put them up in a hotel room, get them some good meals – let’s say we spend a $1,000 per child – it would be $57 million to return the children to their families. Isn’t that far more effective spending?” he asked.
According to Johnson, sending planeloads of illegal immigrant children – “in a very humane fashion” – back to their home countries would be more effective than the Obama administration’s proposal.
Palmieri noted that part of the funding is going to assist with repatriation.
“We think a more balanced approach that tries to address some of the underlying, root causes is also essential, not just to stopping the current problem but to creating the conditions so that in the future these people have a better alternative in their homes,” he said.