April 27, 2021

Smith, Katko Call for Greater Transparency from the Biden Administration on the Cost of its Border Crisis

WASHINGTON, D.C. – House Budget Committee Republican Leader Jason Smith (MO-08) and House Homeland Security Committee Republican Leader John Katko (NY-24) sent a letter today to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) calling on the Biden Administration to be clear and transparent with Congress and the American people about how many hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars the Administration’s border crisis is costing American taxpayers, particularly given the increasing likelihood that the Administration will make an emergency request for additional funds.

“The Biden Administration owes the American people an honest assessment of what is happening at the southwest border, and that includes the cost of the crisis to American taxpayers,” said Ranking Member Smith. “For months, President Biden and his Administration have tried to downplay the disaster while spending hundreds of millions on the response. Congress and the American people need to know what is being spent, where, and what more will be requested by the Administration as it contends with a crisis of its own creation.”

“This is a crisis of President Biden's own making yet American taxpayers are left footing the bill,” said Ranking Member Katko. “These reckless and harmful policies are unsustainable and the American people agree. No administration should have the unchecked authority to spend millions of taxpayer dollars to cover up self-made chaos without approval from Congress. It’s time for the Biden Administration to answer some tough questions, including why they proposed a freeze in funding for DHS while they are spending millions of dollars on hotel rooms and transportation for migrants who have illegally entered our country.”

In their request to OMB, House Budget Committee Republican Leader Smith and House Homeland Security Committee Republican Leader Katko catalogue examples of the spending already reportedly occurring, including:

  • Hundreds of millions to pay non-profits, including one which employs a previous Biden campaign official and transition team member, to assist at the border. These contracts include $86 million for hotel rooms to temporarily house the surge of migrants.
  • $19.2 million to operate U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Donna Processing Facility in Texas in March, which previously reached 420 percent capacity – a 20 percent increase from the $16 million cost to operate the facility in February. Members of Congress have been told that $50,000 per month is coming out of CBP’s operational funds for migrant childcare items.
  • Millions in transportation costs for contracts to facilitate the movement of migrants between federal facilities and for NGOs to provide services for migrants including purchasing some domestic flight and bus tickets to transport migrants to their desired location within the United States. As of March 22, these costs now include transportation of sponsors to assist with the rising number of unaccompanied children in federal facilities.
  • Millions for Alternatives to Detention programs including GPS tracking devices for the increases in migrants being released from custody.
  • $60 million per week to provide services to unaccompanied minors. CBP encountered nearly 19,000 unaccompanied minors in the month of March, and projects that number to increase. These are some of the highest numbers ever recorded.
“It is apparent that hundreds of millions, if not billions, of tax dollars are being spent as a result of the transpiring disaster,” wrote House Budget Committee Republican Leader Smith and House Homeland Security Committee Republican Leader Katko. “We are particularly concerned about recent reports that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) are having to redirect resources from operating budget accounts, including agent payroll, to respond to the turmoil at our border. It is clear to us that the time is fast approaching where the Biden Administration will ask Congress, and the American taxpayer, to authorize the use of billions of federal dollars to bail them out of the mess of an unsecured border and a mass influx of illegal immigration.”

The letter makes specific requests for information, including the total costs of responding to the crisis – above and beyond normal budgeted resources – as well as any reprogramming of funds that have shifted resources away from their otherwise intended purposes, costs related to the Administration’s termination or pause of border wall construction, and resources the Administration might be considering sending to Central America based on its belief it might prevent migration to the United States’ southwest border.

Read the full letter here.