Following national protests and reports of unsanitary conditions at detention centers along the southern border, President Donald Trump signed a $4.6 billion aid package into law on July 1. However, some Texas activists and members of Congress said they doubt the funding will adequately improve living conditions.
“This is a humane solution to a tremendous problem that starts because of our bad immigration laws,” Trump said at the bill’s signing. “We can solve that problem very, very quickly if we could get together with the Democrats. The problem is the Democrats actually like this system because it’s open borders.”
Most of the funds will go toward improving living conditions for detained migrant children by increasing resources to maintain health and wellness at detention facilities, according to the Texas Tribune.
$2.9 billion of the package will be sent to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for more resources. Most of the remaining funds will go to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which will then disburse funds to U.S. Customs and Border Patrol to improve the overall conditions in border facilities, increase available medical care and allow for greater access to essential hygiene items, according to the Tribune.
Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez, executive director of Latinx adovacy group Jolt, said there is still work to be done to improve the situation at the border — despite the funding.
“I believe that the fight our country faces in race and immigration at the end of the day will be fought and won in Texas,” Ramirez said. “I’m determined to make sure that our state lives up to its promise and our country lives up to its promise that guarantees all people equal and unalienable rights. We must stop passing laws that criminalize our communities and undermine our rights.”
The bipartisan bill passed the U.S. House in a 305-102 vote, with 176 Republicans and 129 Democrats voting in its favor. Some Democratic lawmakers, such as those representing border towns, said they approved the bill out of a sense of urgency.
U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar said Democrats were trying to advance “a bill that reflects more of our values,” but they were “running out of time.”
“Are there things I would like to change? Absolutely,” said Escobar, an El Paso Democrat. “But we have a real crisis.”
Among those who voted against the bill were U.S. Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley. In a joint statement, the congresswomen said their disapproval stemmed from fear of giving more money to “abusive agencies,” funding the border wall and granting Immigration and Customs Enforcement the ability to detain more than 5,000 additional people per day, according to a joint statement.
“The Department of Homeland Security has separated thousands of children from their parents, denied asylum to those fleeing danger and used taxpayers’ dollars as a slush fund to incite terror in immigrant communities,” the joint statement says. “The Department of Homeland Security does not deserve an increase in funding, and that is why we intend to vote no on this funding package.”