The Obama administration renewed its plea Monday for Congress to provide additional money to deal with the unaccompanied migrant children at the border, even as Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson declared that "the worst is over for now."
The request seemed likely to fall on deaf ears as neither party showed an appetite to revive an issue that's faded from the spotlight as arrivals at the border have dropped dramatically.
Johnson said in a statement that without the $1.2 billion in additional funding for 2015, he will be forced to take money from other accounts, such as $405 million moved earlier this summer from the disaster relief fund.
"This reprogramming is not sustainable, and leaves the nation vulnerable to unacceptable homeland security risks," Johnson said.
"Though the worst is over for now, there are still bills to be paid and our border security efforts must be sustained to prevent another spike like we saw this year," he said.
A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said that the House had already dealt with the issue by agreeing to a smaller sum prior to Congress' five-week summer recess, which ended Monday. "Now, it is up to Senate Democrats to act," said spokesman Michael Steel.
No deal was ever reached with the Senate on President Barack Obama's initial $3.7 billion request, and no final bill passed. But with arrivals of Central American children down, the issue is now on the back burner on Capitol Hill and looks likely to stay there during the couple weeks Congress is in session ahead of November's midterms.
The administration might get some additional spending flexibility it's asked for in a temporary government funding measure slated for votes the next two weeks, but lawmakers are unlikely to agree to any significant new appropriation at least until after the election.
In his statement Johnson noted that only 3,141 unaccompanied kids crossed the border illegally in August, compared with a high of 10,622 in June as the crisis peaked. The administration has taken a number of steps to respond, and Johnson's memo listed some of those, including reassigning immigration judges, speeding removals of adult migrants and launching public relations campaigns meant to discourage people from coming.
But much of the reduction is seasonal as the summer heat has traditionally discouraged migrants, and it's not clear how much of an impact the administration's policies had. Experts also say the numbers may start rising again, though likely not until early next year.
The spike on the border pushed the issue near the top of public concerns and it was front-and-center at some congressional town halls earlier in the summer. But now it's been overtaken by other events including terrorist threats overseas.