Back in June of last year, Congress green-lit a $4.6 billion emergency funding bill to address the number of immigrants at the border after Trump’s immigration policies ramped up detention in immigration facilities. The bill included a $112 million line item for Customs and Border Patrol to use specifically for “consumables and medical care,” which includes food, medicine, and other supplies migrant families and children might need in packed centers. There’s a lot of reasons to believe the agency didn’t do that.
A new report published from the U.S. Government Accountability Office shows that CBP spent an undisclosed amount of the money on unauthorized purchases, including ATVs, boats, dirt bikes, canine supplies, computer upgrades, printers, security camera systems, and other enforcement items.
“CBP did not provide any explanation as to how these items relate to the consumables and medical care line-item appropriation,” the report states. “Therefore, we conclude that CBP violated the purpose statute when it obligated the consumables and medical care line-item appropriation for these purposes and should adjust its accounts.”
CBP wrote in a statement that the misused funds are a “technical error” and tried to blame a mistake in accounting. They also dismissed GAO’s report as a “legal opinion.”
“As the opinion notes, CBP charged a small subset of expenses in fiscal year 2019 to the incorrect account,” the statement read. “We are working to itemize all such expenses, and correct our accounts as recommend [sic] by the GAO.”
An “accounting mistake” doesn’t change the fact that immigration facilities have been completely overwhelmed, leaving migrants in unsanitary, unsafe conditions. In 2019, seven children died in immigration custody, and things have worsened as coronavirus has spread in the U.S. Some folks have reported that they don’t have access to basic hygienic supplies, such as masks and soap. Already, two people have died from the virus in custody, leading to even more questions about how CBP is using its budget and how it’s ensuring the health of the individuals being held.
“Congress provided this additional funding for the primary purpose of improving conditions for migrants at the border and ensuring migrants were receiving adequate health care after the deaths of multiple children in custody,” Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said in a statement on Thursday. “This callous disregard for the law is yet another example of this administration’s continuing failure to carry out its duty to provide humane conditions and medical care for migrants in its care.”