House Republicans press Biden admin on cost of border surge: 'Crisis of its own creation'

Reps. Jason Smith and John Katko are calling for transparency as costs continue to climb

Two House Republicans are seeking answers from the Biden administration regarding just how much money the government is spending as a result of the ongoing border crisis and what they plan to do about it going further.

In a letter to Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Acting Director Shalanda Young, Reps. Jason Smith, R-Mo., and John Katko, R-N.Y.,  expressed concern over the rising costs of migrant-related expenses and reports that funds from the operating budgets of the departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services have been redirected to deal with the situation. Smith and Katko are the ranking members of the House Budget and Homeland Security committees, respectively.

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"While it is evident that President Biden's immigration policies have encouraged historic levels of migration to the border, exacerbating the national security, humanitarian, and public health crisis, what remains unclear is the true cost—both current and future—of responding to this policy-driven crisis," the congressmen wrote in their letter.

The letter pointed to hundreds of millions of dollars paid to nonprofits, citing recent news that this includes Family Endeavors, which won a contract worth up to $530 million months after they hired former Biden transition team adviser Andrew Lorenzen-Strait. According to Axios, the administration has already paid out $225 million to the organization.

Teenage migrant girls are loaded into vans to be transported out of the National Association of Christian Churches facility, on Saturday, April 17, 2021, in Houston. (Godofredo A. Vásquez/Houston Chronicle via AP)

Teenage migrant girls are loaded into vans to be transported out of the National Association of Christian Churches facility, on Saturday, April 17, 2021, in Houston. (Godofredo A. Vásquez/Houston Chronicle via AP) ((Godofredo A. Vásquez/Houston Chronicle via AP))

The nonprofit told Axios that its work on the border was "a continuation of services we have delivered to the migrant population since 2012."

The letter also referenced $86 million for hotel rooms for migrants, $19 million in March alone for operating Customs and Border Protection's Donna Processing Facility in Texas that had recently reached 420% capacity, $60 million per week for unaccompanied minors, and millions used to pay for transportation of migrants and their sponsors.

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"Many of these adjusted costs were not budgeted or appropriated for, nor were they approved by Congress," the letter said. "Additionally, these costs were not accounted for in the most recent budget outline submitted by the Biden Administration. What is even more disconcerting is the budget outline for the upcoming fiscal year calls for a freeze in funding for DHS."

The congressmen went on to request answers to several questions about the money being spent, including details about "the total federal costs above budgeted line items," the projected total cost for Fiscal Year 2022, whether the FY2022 budget will include detailed plans for handling the crisis, specifics regarding funding reprogramming at DHS and HHS, and whether the administration plans on asking for more money.

Smith and Katko also asked about the expense "of materials that have gone to waste" as a result of a pause in border wall construction and how the administration plans to pay for lawsuits or settlements related to the pausing or canceling of border wall construction contracts.

They also wanted to know how much money the Biden administration has sent in aid to Central American nations with the goal of preventing illegal border crossings.

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"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," Smith said in a statement. "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," Katko said. "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."