AUSTIN (CN) - Texas needs $30 million in emergency federal funding to deal with the "extraordinary influx" of unaccompanied children illegally crossing into the country, Attorney General Greg Abbott says.
In a letter Thursday to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, Abbott says authorities have arrested more than 47,000 alien minors between October 2013 and May 2014 - a 92 percent spike from the same period a year earlier.
Abbott cites a U.S. Border Patrol memorandum that predicts the number could reach 90,000 by Sept. 30.
Abbott is complimentary of Border Patrol members, noting that illegal crossing apprehensions along the Texas-Mexico border have increased by more than 90 percent since 2010. But he says the federal agency is "overwhelmed" and Texas state troopers need to step in. Abbott says the influx of minors shifts focus away from drug cartel activity, including drug smuggling and human trafficking.
"This crisis has been accelerated by federal government policies that, as U.S. District Judge S. Hanen recently wrote, are 'rewarding criminal conduct instead of enforcing the current laws,'" Abbott wrote. "Federal government policies that release unauthorized immigrants from custody with notices to appear in court, and that reunite minors apprehended in the U.S. illegally with family members already present in the country, only encourages the continued influx of unaccompanied minors that has helped create this urgent situation on our southwest border."
The Border Patrol is devoting time and resources to the humanitarian aspects of the influx, Abbott said. "Therefore, we are concerned federal authorities are not available to secure the border and successfully stop cross-border criminal activity," Abbott wrote.
"The Texas Department of Public Safety has a proven track record of interdicting, intercepting and disrupting the criminal operations of transnational gangs and drug cartels ... [It] is prepared to swiftly launch a significant and proven border security operation once funding is available."
Abbott estimates the cost of a DPS operation to be $1.3 million per week. It involves state troopers being paid for 12-hour shifts, local law enforcement supporting DPS being paid overtime, fuel and lodging.
The money Texas is requesting is just 2 percent of the aid President Barack Obama is asking Congress to provide in temporary border security aid, Abbott says.
"The short-term cost of border security enhancement provided by Texas should lead to significantly lower aid costs incurred by U.S. taxpayers in the future and would ensure law enforcement at the border continues to be available to focus on narcotics interdiction, human trafficking prevention and other cartel activity," the letter states.
Abbott's request came days after the ACLU released a scathing report
on immigrants being stuck in deplorable conditions in immigration prisons run by private contractors.
The 104-page report, "Warehoused and Forgotten: Immigrants Trapped in Our Shadow Private Prison System," is the result of a multiyear study of private immigration prisons, particularly five prisons in Texas, which are authorized to imprison 13,548 people.
The Bureau of Prisons paid private prison companies $600 million in fiscal year 2013 to run "privately operated institutions," the ACLU said in the report, which was released Tuesday.
The report alleged the companies are paid incentives for holding people in solitary confinement. It alleged the Bureau of Prisons uses the private contracts to avoid scrutiny and duck public records laws.
The nation's largest private prison company, the Corrections Corporation of America, did not respond to media inquiries. Two other major private prison corporations, the GEO Group and MTC, denied the allegations that their prisons are abusive.