The Transportation Security Administration plans to use loose change left in trays at airports to partly fund the $232 million that its parent agency, the Department of Homeland Security, has requested to help pay for border operations if Congress doesn’t agree to its $1.1 billion funding request.
The TSA is just one of almost two dozen agencies under the DHS umbrella, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency, that could be forced to dole out millions of dollars from their budgets to pay for the ramped-up operations along the United States’ southern border.
“The Department is considering all options to address the humanitarian and security crisis at our southern border,” a DHS spokesperson said in a statement to Fox News. “We will continue to work with our workforce to find dynamic solutions and funding to address this very serious problem.”
The spokesperson added: “As part of this effort, it is our responsibility to explore fiscal mechanisms that will ensure the safety and welfare of both our workforce and the migrant population, which is also reflected in the supplemental request submitted to Congress.”
According to internal TSA emails and a PowerPoint presentation from last week, which were obtained by NBC News, the agency has outlined a plan on how to handle the “tax” the DHS could levy upon it. Along with using the $3 million in loose change found in airport trays across the country, the TSA would use $50 million set aside to purchase advanced airport screening equipment and $64 million from a worker’s compensation fund set up in 2010 for injured TSA employees.
The TSA is also considering using funding for Transportation Security Officers – who run security screenings at airports – to pay the DHS in a move that could add to the already lengthy wait times for travelers at the nation’s airports during the busy summer travel season.
President Trump has asked Congress for $4.5 billion dollars to deal with the influx of migrants from Central America crossing over the U.S.’s southern border with Mexico – with $1.1 billion set aside specifically for “border operations.” The White House argues that this money will be used for “personnel expenses, additional detention beds, and operations combating human smuggling and trafficking.”
Trump’s border wall plan has been met with fierce resistance from Democrats and has become ensnared in a number of legal battles.
A federal judge in Oakland last week heard arguments in two lawsuits seeking to block the White House from spending money from the Defense and Treasury departments for the project. California and 19 other states brought one lawsuit; the Sierra Club and Southern Border Communities Coalition, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, filed the other.
The plaintiffs asked U.S. District Judge Haywood S. Gilliam Jr. to block the shifting of funds and construction on the wall. They want a quick decision, arguing that some of the Pentagon-funded projects could begin in eight days.
In another case, a federal judge in Washington on Thursday will consider a bid by the House to prevent Trump from spending any Defense Department money for a border wall. At stake is billions of dollars that would allow Trump to make major progress on his signature campaign promise heading into his campaign for a second term.
The president’s adversaries say the emergency declaration was an illegal attempt to ignore Congress, which authorized far less wall spending than Trump wanted. Trump grudgingly accepted congressional approval of $1.375 billion to end a 35-day government shutdown on Feb. 15 and declared the emergency in almost the same breath.
The White House says it has identified up to $8.1 billion that it could spend on the project.
Trump’s actions “amount to a usurpation of Congress’ legislative powers in violation of bedrock separation of powers principles embedded in the Constitution,” the state attorneys general wrote in their lawsuit. The administration argues that Trump is protecting national security as unprecedented numbers of Central American asylum-seeking families arrive at the U.S. border.
The Defense Department has already transferred $1 billion to border wall coffers in March and another $1.5 billion last week. Patrick Shanahan, acting defense secretary, may decide as soon as Wednesday whether to transfer an additional $3.6 billion.
The DHS last week also waived environmental impact and other reviews to replace sections of wall in California and Arizona under a law that gives the secretary sweeping powers to plan construction.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.