By Roberta Rampton
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Trump administration on Wednesday asked Congress for $4.5 billion in immediate emergency funding to help address a surge in migration at the U.S. southern border, saying the situation has overwhelmed government resources.
President Donald Trump earlier this year designated the immigration influx a national emergency, a declaration that empowered him to redirect more than $6 billion in government spending to projects to build a wall on the border, a central pledge of his 2016 presidential campaign.
But the new request for another $4.5 billion is on top of the wall funding, and is necessitated by record numbers of Central American families seeking asylum in the United States, straining capacity at migrant shelters in border cities such as El Paso, Texas, and Las Cruces, New Mexico.
"Agencies are literally running out of funds," a senior administration official told reporters on a conference call.
The request includes $3.3 billion for shelter, food and other requirements for migrants in custody, $1.1 billion for personnel, and $178 million for information technology and other needs, officials said.
Asked why the administration did not use wall funding to help pay for the humanitarian needs of migrants, an official told reporters that would not be allowed under budget authorities.
Democrats have blamed the Trump administration for exacerbating the situation with its hard-line immigration policies, while Trump has accused Democrats of failing to staunch the migrant flow, in part by not funding his long-sought border wall.
Trump has also called on the military to support the efforts of Border Patrol officials, and said earlier this month he would need to increase troops at the border.
The Pentagon said last week it expected to send about 300 additional troops to the border with Mexico, including roughly 100 cooks who would hand out meals, in a break with its past policy to avoid troops coming into contact with migrants.
(Reporting by Roberta Rampton in Washington; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and James Dalgleish)