In a letter to the House Appropriation Committee this week, U.S. Reps. Michael McCaul (R-TX) and Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) urged leadership to include funding for first responder aid programs in any FY 2024 supplemental appropriations to support those affected by immigration.
“Increased operations are stretching the resources of local governments, police, and fire departments to the limit,” the lawmakers wrote. “Without additional funding, many local leaders and decision-makers face a choice – provide only vital services to long-term residents and ignore certain emergency calls they determine to not be top priority or devote resources towards responding to a ballooning migrant population with no end in sight.”
In September, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reported more than 269,000 migrants encountered at the southwest border, pushing the year’s total to approximately 2.4 million. Framing the issue as a crisis, the members noted that local police departments are restricted from directly enforcing immigration laws, even though they are often the first responders on the scene, summoned by calls of organized criminal activity, loitering, trespassing, and other emergency response.
Every call to an emergency department by migrants, they argued, puts additional strain on resources and personnel dedicated to assisting tax-paying permanent residents. The results are departments stretched thin on funding and manpower, and the lawmakers argued that could lead to hard decisions without support.
“To that end, should Congress consider any supplemental funding under the Department of Homeland Security or Department of Justice, we request that you consider additional funding for programs that help first responders in the communities being hit hardest by the crisis at the border, including Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grants, Assistance to Firefighters Grants (AFG), and Emergency Operations Center (EOC) grants,” the members wrote. “This funding is critical to providing state and local agencies with the resources they need to hire more police officers, firefighters, and emergency responders, as much-needed equipment and overtime pay for first responders who are already on the frontlines of this crisis.”