Migrant aid reimbursement bill passes Senate

Migrants from Central America, the Caribbean, South America, and Africa line up to receive a meal donated by volunteers from the U.S., at the foot of the bridge that crosses to Brownsville, Texas, in downtown Matamoros, Tamaulipas state, Mexico, Wednesday, June 26, 2019. Hundreds of migrants, some of whom have been in line for months, are awaiting their turn to request asylum in the U.S. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

Legislation aimed in part at reimbursing local governments and non-governmental organizations for incurring the financial cost of migrants being released by federal authorities into border cities passed the U.S. Senate on Wednesday.

“ The federal government must take financial responsibility for migrant care,” U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-TX, said in a statement on Wednesday, a week after he urged Senate appropriators to include reimbursement language. “Texas communities have gone above and beyond, expending resources to provide shelter and food for migrants in need. With federal reimbursement money included in this bill, Texas cities and non-profits will be able to return their focus to serving the community the way they know best.”

Cities such as McAllen and organizations such as Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley have spent millions of dollars since 2014 on asylum-seeking immigrants who temporarily stay in McAllen after federal authorities drop off the migrants at the downtown bus station. With this legislation, the governments and NGOs would be able to apply to the pool of $30 million the bill provides for reimbursement.

While the $30 million package is just part of the Senate’s $4.6 billion emergency spending bill for the southern border with Mexico, the bill’s passage now sets up a clash with the U.S. House.

A bill pushed by U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, passed the U.S. House on Tuesday. It included $60 million for reimbursements, double that of the Senate bill backed by Cornyn. But the House bill failed in the Senate on Wednesday, and Trump had threatened to veto the House bill.

Trump has supported the Senate bill, and it passed Wednesday with strong support — eight Senators voted against the legislation. Now, the House must decide what to do with the Senate bill. Cornyn and Cuellar are frequent collaborators on legislation, but the decision will now be up to House leadership. Cuellar is expected to have some input — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has turned to Cuellar for border issues in the past.

Congressional leaders now face a decision: Can the two chambers reconcile their differences or will lawmakers be dismissed for a week-long recess?

mferman@themonitor.com