Acting Homeland Security chief: Border crisis can only be solved by congressional action

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan said Sunday the Supreme Court’s decision last week to free up money for further construction of the border wall was a big win for the administration.

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“That was a big victory at the Supreme Court to allow the Department of Defense to move forward with that $2.5 billion to really accelerate the progress on the wall and kind of double what we’re doing with the congressionally appropriated funding, which is going well,” McAleenan told “Sunday Morning Futures.”

The Supreme Court voted on Friday in a 5-4 decision to allow the administration to use $2.5 billion in military funding on the wall’s construction. The money, which was allotted to the Pentagon’s budget, was blocked by a U.S. District Court judge from being reappropriated for the purpose of building the wall at the U.S. southern border with Mexico.

President Trump, who has long advocated for the wall, celebrated the decision in a tweet.

“Wow! Big VICTORY on the Wall. The United States Supreme Court overturns lower court injunction, allows Southern Border Wall to proceed. Big WIN for Border Security and the Rule of Law!” Trump wrote.

McAleenan noted that 54 miles of wall have been completed and that the funds will help control the larger influx of migrants seeking to enter the U.S.

“That’s already providing significant, new operational capability and helping us control some high-trafficked areas of the border,” he said, regarding the funding.

The acting Homeland Security chief also noted the cost of caring for unaccompanied minors that are crossing the border into the country.

“The $4.5 billion in the emergency supplemental that we had to ask for and we got from Congress, finally after two months … $3.3 billion – 75 percent of that – went to our partners at Health and Human Services simply for the care and custody of unaccompanied children for the remaining four months of the year,” he said. “That’s how expensive this is to try to provide the proper care and just given the flows that we’re facing at the border – the number of people and the number of dollars it takes to provide medical, education, appropriate settings for kids.”


While Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., introduced legislation earlier this year in an effort to extend the number of days a migrant family can be held at a detention center from 20 days to 100 days. The Flores settlement in 1997 (Flores v. Reno) set the standard for the treatment of minors in detention centers. Today, a minor must be provided “food and drinking water, medical assistance in emergencies, toilets and sinks, adequate temperature control and ventilation, adequate supervision to protect minors from others and separation from unrelated adults whenever possible,” according to a report from the Congressional Research Service from 2017.

“The only fundamental, durable solution to this crisis is congressional action,” McAleenan said. “And we’ve made very clear the targeted changes in law that we need.”