The Senate’s top Democrat on Monday accused President Trump of fabricating the border crisis, saying his attempts to cut off foreign assistance for Central American governments is backfiring by sending more people north.
Sen. Charles E. Schumer also drew lines in the sand on Mr. Trump’s $4.5 billion emergency spending request to provide better care for illegal immigrants at the border, saying Democrats won’t approve anything until the president agrees to pump more money into nation building in Central America.
He said the migrants fleeing Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala are facing tough conditions of violence and poor economies back home, and said the solution is to build their societies.
And he chided Mr. Trump for saying earlier this year that he’ll cut off foreign assistance.
“It’s almost as if the president is intentionally trying to add fuel to the fire, to fabricate a crisis, to have a justification for an emergency declaration he made months ago,” Mr. Schumer said.
Border Patrol authorities and cities along the southwestern border, however, say there is a crisis.
They point to staggering numbers of illegal immigrant children and families crossing each day. They’re coming so fast the government is struggling just to process and release them, and there’s no hope of quickly deporting them.
An inspector general’s report last week found “dangerous” levels of overcrowding at border facilities, with some migrants standing on toilets just to get breathing space.
Mr. Trump has requested $4.5 billion in emergency aid, a majority of it aimed at being able to house illegal immigrant children who arrive at the border without parents. Under the law they must be quickly turned over to social workers at the federal Health Department — but that department says it’s about to run out of money to care for them.
Republicans had fought to include the $4.5 billion in a disaster relief bill, but Democrats balked at giving Mr. Trump what he asked for.
Mr. Schumer on Monday said “any legislation that deals with border policy” will have to include Democrats’ wish-list of $1.5 billion in nation-building money for Central America, as well as allowing migrants to apply for asylum in their home countries and an increase in immigration judges.
The administration has signaled a willingness to allow those latter two policies in some form — but Mr. Trump’s anger at Central American governments could thwart the request for more foreign assistance.
In March, the White House told the State Department to withhold foreign aid payments to the three Central American countries most responsible for the surge in illegal immigration.
“It’s a completely self-inflicted wound to our national security,” Mr. Schumer said.
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