By KEVIN FREKING Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump signed a $4.6 billion aid package on Monday to help the federal government cope with the surge of Central American immigrants at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Many Democratic lawmakers were hoping for more. They wanted to provide stronger protections for how migrants are treated at holding facilities and to make it easier for lawmakers to make snap visits.
Trump signed the bill in the Oval Office, flanked by Vice President Mike Pence and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. The emergency legislation was needed to ease overcrowded, often harsh conditions at U.S. holding facilities for migrants seeking asylum, mostly from Central American nations like Honduras and El Salvador.
"This is a humane solution to a tremendous problem that starts because of our bad immigration laws," Trump said.
The White House had threatened to veto a House bill on grounds that it would hamstring border security efforts. Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was forced to accept the Republican-controlled Senate’s version of the aid package, frustrating the more liberal members of her caucus.
The bill bolsters care for tens of thousands of arrivals taken into custody monthly and sets guidelines for how the Trump administration must handle them.
Trump expressed satisfaction with the bill, but made clear he was dissatisfied with the state of illegal immigration in the United States. He suggested he would continue with plans for a nationwide immigration sweep to deport people living the United States illegally, including families.
Trump delayed the raids about a week ago. The move came after Pelosi urged Trump to call them off. Immigration and Customs Enforcement leaders had also expressed serious concerns that officers' safety would be in jeopardy because too many details about the raids had been made public.
"After July 4th, a lot of people are going to be brought back out," Trump threatened. "ICE is going to be apprehending them and bringing them back."
Trump dismissed the conditions that most people seeking asylum in the U.S. face in their home countries. He said they are lodging "frivolous asylum claims."
“That’s what they do to gain access into the country,” Trump said. “They lodge claims of asylum, and they’re totally bogus claims.”