Portman, Kelly Introduce Bill to Address Homeland Security’s Response to Migration at our Southern Border

WASHINGTON, DC –U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and Mark Kelly (D-AZ) introduced the Border Response Resilience Act to require DHS and federal partners to create a strategic plan and to conduct exercises to improve the federal response to increased migration at the border. The bill gives DHS access to contingency funding to activate the plan in case of future increases in unaccompanied children, asylum-seekers and migrants at the border. 

DHS and Border Patrol are currently facing the worst year for increases in unaccompanied children, asylum-seekers and migrants in the last two decades and are doing so with a budget that does not meet this year’s needs. The Border Response Resilience Act would establish the “Irregular Migration Border Response Fund” with $1 billion so that DHS is not forced to transfer resources away from border security priorities to fund food, clothing, blankets, and transportation for unaccompanied children and family members. These contingency resources would be available immediately when numerical border metrics are met to quickly respond to increased migration at the border. The Fund is authorized for replenishing consumables, equipment, overtime and payroll funds for Border Patrol agents, health care and mental health care for individuals, and trauma-informed care for children. The bill text is available here

“DHS has been unprepared for unlawful migrant surges at our southern border in 2014, 2019, and again during the current crisis. This is unacceptable. DHS and other federal agencies must be able to respond immediately to the need for shelter for migrants as well as additional personnel to handle surging numbers of unlawful migrants at our border,” said Portman. “DHS cannot wait until there are 5,000 unlawful migrants per day at the border to begin planning and contracting in response. That’s why I’m proud to introduce this bill with Senator Kelly to give DHS contingency resources, require DHS to plan for these surges, and to conduct exercises and after-action reviews so they can effectively and efficiently carry out their national security mission.” 

“The federal government has repeatedly failed Arizona on immigration and border security in part because there isn’t a plan or the necessary resources,” said Kelly. “The Border Response Resilience Act that Senator Portman and I introduced takes the politics out of the process by requiring DHS to develop a response plan that prioritizes safety for border communities and a humane process for migrants. A coordinated federal response with dedicated funding will allow DHS to prioritize their mission of border security, keep the burden from falling on Arizona communities, and allow for a more secure and orderly process at the border.”