What to Know in Washington: NGOs Draw GOP Ire Over Migrant Aid

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A growing number of Republicans frustrated about the US-Mexico border are scrutinizing faith-based groups and other nonprofits that feed and shelter migrants, proposing to slash federal grants and accusing groups of enabling unauthorized border crossings.

The efforts to cut off federal funding and restrict the groups’ work threatens to destabilize a system of partnerships between nonprofits and the federal government that Democrats and Republicans alike have historically supported. Ending partnerships with the nongovernmental organizations could lead to swift overcrowding at federal facilities or more frequent release of newly arrived immigrants onto the streets in border communities.

Moisés Ávila/AFP via Getty Images
A group of migrants in a parking garage in May after being released by Customs and Border Protection in Brownsville, Texas.

“We have to lean on these NGOs” because Customs and Border Protection facilities can’t hold migrants for extended periods, Gloria Chavez, a longtime Border Patrol official who oversees the Rio Grande Sector, told lawmakers earlier this year.

“If they got their wish, which is basically to provide zero funding to local governments or NGOs who are assisting the federal government, we would have a humanitarian catastrophe unlike anything we’ve ever seen,” Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-Texas), said of Republicans’ efforts to end federal funding for the aid.

But critics say NGOs are part of the problem. In a recent Judiciary Committee hearing, Rep. Tom Tiffany (R-Wis.) called for Catholic Charities USA to testify to explain “what they’re doing down on the border to facilitate this illegal immigration.” Jewish Family Services, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, and United Way Worldwide are also among more than a dozen organizations facing criticism.

Tiffany and other critics point to documentation that some groups have mismanaged federal funds and claim groups are rewarding immigrants who were able to sneak into the US. Many aid workers and leaders say they’re caught in the crossfire of a partisan battle over border policies they can’t control.

“The case somehow that we are facilitating illegal immigration is not true,” said Bishop Jaime Soto of the Sacramento Diocese, which recently received a group of migrants sent by Texas officials. “We see a human suffering and people being exploited, and we have an obligation to try to be the Good Samaritan.”

Nongovernmental organizations are poised to spend more time in the hot seat in the coming months as lawmakers squabble over government funding and Republicans investigate Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas’s border policies. Read the full story from Ellen M. Gilmer.


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To contact the reporters on this story: Brandon Lee in Washington at blee@bgov.com; Giuseppe Macri in Washington at gmacri@bgov.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Kayla Sharpe at ksharpe@bloombergindustry.com

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