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Rep. Juan Vargas Joins Effort to Reimburse Southern Border Communities Providing Humanitarian Relief

May 28, 2019
Press Release
Joint letter signed by 12 Representatives from Border States

Washington, D.C. (May 28, 2019) – Rep. Juan Vargas (CA-51) joined a letter led by Reps. Henry Cuellar (TX-28), Veronica Escobar (TX-16), and Xochitl Torres Small (NM-20), to the House Appropriations Committee leadership requesting increased federal funding for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)’s State and Local Programs for each border state. In addition, the letter requests a legislative provision to allow for reimbursements to local governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) which are providing humanitarian relief along the southern border.

“The Trump administration should be held financially accountable for the burden it has created by its failed immigration policies. Our communities are heroically filling in where the Trump administration refuses,” said Rep. Juan Vargas. “Our request will help ensure our local organizations are able to continue assisting asylum-seeking children and families with the proper services they urgently need.” 

The full text of the letter is below:

Dear Colleagues,

As you continue working on a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) supplemental appropriations bill, we urge you to increase Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), a State and Local Programs, accounts for each Southwest border state that has been experiencing a high influx of migrants seeking asylum at the border. Furthermore, we respectfully request you include a legislative provision that would allow for these funds to be used to reimburse local governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that have incurred costs while providing humanitarian relief at the border.

As you know, the southwest border is experiencing unprecedented levels of migration composed mostly of family united and unaccompanied children. In March, U.S. Border Patrol began releasing non-criminal, processed family units on their own recognizance into border communities in California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. To date, U.S. Customs and Border Protection has released over 40,000 family unit individuals.

In certain areas along the border, DHS has released groups of several hundred individuals without notice to NGOs or local governments. This places an enormous strain on border communities and forces them to hastily create makeshift shelters, round up volunteers and emergency aid, and assist migrants coordinate travel plans to their destinations.

We believe local communities should not have to bear the brunt of flawed policies at the border and must be fairly compensated for their humane response to an issue that should be shouldered by federal agencies.

Reimbursement to communities for the provision of humanitarian assistance to migrants at the border is not unprecedented. After the surge of unaccompanied children in 2014, Congress included a provision in the fiscal year 2015 DHS appropriations bill that allowed funds in the FEMA, State and Local Programs, accounts to be used to reimbursements of costs related to humanitarian relief.

Now, we ask Congressional and Appropriation Committee leaders to once again include this authority in a DHS supplemental appropriations bill, along with increased funding to border states to give our border communities the desired relief they desperately need.

Thank you for your consideration.


Congressman Henry Cuellar, Ph.D.

Congresswoman Veronica Escobar

Congresswoman Xochitl Torres Small

Congressman Filemon Vela

Congressman Vicente González

Congressman Will Hurd

Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick

Congressman J. Luis Correa

Congressman Raúl M. Grijalva

Congressman Scott H. Peters

Congressman Juan Vargas

Congresswoman Susan A. Davis


Vargas represents California’s 51st Congressional District which includes the southern portion of San Diego County, all of Imperial County and California’s entire U.S.-Mexico border.  Vargas was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2012 and is currently serving his fourth term in Congress.  He serves on the House Financial Services Committee and House Foreign Affairs Committee.