White House: Most kids at border won't stay in US

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White House: Most kids at border won't stay in US
Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeau addresses immigration protesters on Tuesday, July 15, 2014 in Oracle, Ariz. Dozens of protesters on both sides of the immigration debate showed up in Oracle, a small town near Tucson, on Tuesday after the sheriff said the federal government plans to transport about 40 immigrant children to an academy for troubled youths. Anger has been spreading throughout the U.S. Southwest since a massive surge in unaccompanied Central American children crossing the border illegally began more than a month ago. (AP Photo/Brian Skoloff)
NOGALES, AZ - JUNE 18: Boys await medical appointments in a holding area where hundreds of mostly Central American immigrant children are being processed and held at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Nogales Placement Center on June 18, 2014, in Nogales, Arizona. Brownsville, Texas, and Nogales, have been central to processing the more than 47,000 unaccompanied children who have entered the country illegally since Oct. 1. (Photo by Ross D. Franklin-Pool/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 07: Young children join immigration reform protesters while marching in front of the White House July 7, 2014 in Washington, DC. During the rally participants condemned 'the President's response to the crisis of unaccompanied children and families fleeing violence and to demand administrative relief for all undocumented families'. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 07: Young children join immigration reform protesters while marching in front of the White House July 7, 2014 in Washington, DC. During the rally participants condemned 'the President's response to the crisis of unaccompanied children and families fleeing violence and to demand administrative relief for all undocumented families'. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
NOGALES, AZ - JUNE 18: A U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer helps out a few boys who are trying to make phone calls as they are joined by hundreds of mostly Central American immigrant children that are being processed and held at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Nogales Placement Center on June 18, 2014, in Nogales, Arizona. Brownsville, Texas, and Nogales, have been central to processing the more than 47,000 unaccompanied children who have entered the country illegally since Oct. 1. (Photo by Ross D. Franklin-Pool/Getty Images)
Students walk under the rain after school, at the community of San Jose Las Flores, in the northern Cuchumatanes mountains of Guatemala, Tuesday, July 1, 2014. In this small community Gilberto Francisco Ramos Juarez was born, a Guatemalan boy whose decomposed body was found in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas. The number of unaccompanied immigrant children picked up along the border has been rising for three years as they flee pervasive gang violence in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. More recently, children and parents have said they heard children traveling alone and parents traveling with young kids would be released by authorities and allowed to continue to their destination. (AP Photo/Luis Soto)
MURRIETA, CA - JULY 4: Counter-demonstrators to protesters opposing arrivals of buses carrying largely women and children undocumented migrants for processing at the Murrieta Border Patrol Station are detained on July 4, 2014 in Murrieta, California. Five people were arrested. Earlier this week, protesters turned away buses carrying about 140 immigrants in custody to the processing center. The immigrants are being flown from Texas where authorities are dealing with a with a crush of Central American children crossing the border to turned themselves in to border patrol agents. The influx is being fueled as people flee drug and violence problems in Central America with misinformation about immigration laws, and by drug cartels smuggling unaccompanied children of all ages across the border then leaving them on the U.S. side. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
MURRIETA, CA - JULY 04: A protester who opposes arrivals of buses carrying largely women and children undocumented migrants for processing at the Murrieta Border Patrol Station and a counter-demonstrator (L) face off on July 4, 2014 in Murrieta, California. Earlier this week, protesters in the city turned away buses carrying about 140 immigrants that had been apprehended in Texas and flown to California for processing as Texas deals with an influx of immigrants. Federal officials estimate more than 50,000 minors, mostly from Central America, have been caught crossing the border since October 2013. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 30: White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest (L) and White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough (R) listen to U.S. President Barack Obama speak about immigration reform in the Rose Garden of the White House June 30, 2014 in Washington, DC. Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) said today that the House of Representatives would not take up immigration reform legislation this year and Obama said he would continue to use his executive power to bolster enforcement on the southern border. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
NOGALES, AZ - JUNE 18: Hundreds of mostly Central American immigrant children are separated into age and gender holding areas as they are being processed and held at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Nogales Placement Center on June 18, 2014, in Nogales, Arizona. Brownsville, Texas, and Nogales, have been central to processing the more than 47,000 unaccompanied children who have entered the country illegally since Oct. 1. (Photo by Ross D. Franklin-Pool/Getty Images)
NOGALES, AZ - JUNE 18: Detainees are escorted to an area to make phone calls as hundreds of mostly Central American immigrant children are being processed and held at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Nogales Placement Center on June 18, 2014, in Nogales, Arizona. Brownsville, Texas, and Nogales, have been central to processing the more than 47,000 unaccompanied children who have entered the country illegally since Oct. 1. (Photo by Ross D. Franklin-Pool/Getty Images)
A child's tricycle stands in the court yard of the Senda de Vida shelter in Reynosa, Mexico, on Tuesday, June 17, 2014. More than 47,000 unaccompanied minors have crossed the border since October, a 92 percent increase from the prior year, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. They're part of a surge of immigrants, mainly Central American, fleeing violence and poverty after hearing that immigration policy has grown more accommodating. Photographer: Tochiro Gallegos/Bloomberg via Getty Images
NOGALES, AZ - JUNE 18: U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers wait for new arrivals in the intake area where hundreds of mostly Central American immigrant children are being processed and held at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Nogales Placement Center on June 18, 2014, in Nogales, Arizona. Brownsville, Texas, and Nogales, have been central to processing the more than 47,000 unaccompanied children who have entered the country illegally since Oct. 1. (Photo by Ross D. Franklin-Pool/Getty Images)
NOGALES, AZ - JUNE 18: U.S. Customs and Border Protection staff a medical section where if needed the hundreds of mostly Central American immigrant children can get medical attention as they are being processed and held at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Nogales Placement Center on June 18, 2014, in Nogales, Arizona. Brownsville, Texas, and Nogales, have been central to processing the more than 47,000 unaccompanied children who have entered the country illegally since Oct. 1. (Photo by Ross D. Franklin-Pool/Getty Images)
NOGALES, AZ - JUNE 18: Two female detainees sleep in a holding cell, as the children are separated by age group and gender, as hundreds of mostly Central American immigrant children are being processed and held at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Nogales Placement Center on June 18, 2014, in Nogales, Arizona. Brownsville, Texas, and Nogales, have been central to processing the more than 47,000 unaccompanied children who have entered the country illegally since Oct. 1. (Photo by Ross D. Franklin-Pool/Getty Images)
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By Charles Babington

WASHINGTON (AP) - The White House said Monday that most unaccompanied children arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border are unlikely to qualify for humanitarian relief that would prevent them from being sent back from their home countries.

The pointed warning came as the White House finalized a spending request to Congress detailing the additional resources President Barack Obama wants in order to hire more immigration judges and open additional detention facilities to deal with the border crisis. White House officials said they planned to send the more than $2 billion request to lawmakers on Tuesday.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said that while the administration will allow the immigration review process to take place, officials so far don't expect many of the children arriving at the border to be able to stay in the U.S.

"It's unlikely that most of these kids will qualify for humanitarian relief," Earnest said. "It means they will not have a legal basis for remaining in this country and will be returned."

Still, it's unclear how quickly that process will unfold. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson acknowledged Sunday that such proceedings might be long delayed, and he said that coping with floods of unaccompanied minors crossing the border is a legal and humanitarian dilemma for the United States.

"Our border is not open to illegal migration, and we are taking a number of steps to address it, including turning people around faster," Johnson told NBC's "Meet the Press." At the same time, he said, the administration is "looking at ways to create additional options for dealing with the children in particular, consistent with our laws and our values."

Repeatedly pressed to say whether thousands of Central American children will be deported promptly, Johnson said, "We need to find more efficient, effective ways to turn this tide around generally, and we've already begun to do that."

Most are from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, where spikes in violence and poverty are prompting parents to send their children on difficult and dangerous journeys north.

Their numbers have overwhelmed federal agencies. When 140 would-be immigrants - mostly mothers with children - were flown to southern California to ease an overcrowded Texas facility, angry residents of Murrieta, California, greeted the bus as it pulled into town, complaining that they were being saddled with more than their share.

"This is a failure of diplomacy. It is a failure of leadership from the administration," said Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who sought the 2012 GOP presidential nomination.

Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, said the administration "is one step behind" a major dilemma that was foreseeable. The number of children coming from Central America without adults has been rising dramatically for several years.

A George W. Bush-era law to address human trafficking prevents the government from returning these children to their home countries without taking them into custody and eventually through a deportation hearing. Minors from Mexico and Canada, by contrast, can be sent back across the border more easily. The administration says it wants more flexibility under the law.

Johnson said the administration has dramatically sped up the processing of adults who enter the country illegally, and it is opening more detention facilities. He acknowledged that the unaccompanied children from Central America, some 9,700 taken into custody in May alone, pose the most vexing problem.

Unaccompanied Central American children generally are being released to relatives already in the United States. Mothers with their children often are released with a notice to appear later in immigration court.

Meanwhile, word of seemingly successful border crossings reaches their home countries, encouraging others to try.

Johnson said the U.S. government is trying to send the message that all people who enter the country illegally will face deportation proceedings eventually. In Central America, he said, "the criminal smuggling organizations are putting out a lot of disinformation about supposed free passes into this country" that will expire soon. "We're cracking down on the smuggling organizations by surging law enforcement resources," Johnson said.

Johnson and others are warning of the dangers that immigrants, and especially children, face when the try to reach the United States on their own. Johnson is scheduled to meet with Guatemalan officials later this week.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said children entering the country illegally must be sent home. If not, Graham said, "you're going to incentivize people throughout that part of the world to keep sending their children here."

Graham said foreign aid should be cut off to countries that don't do more to discourage illegal immigration to the United States.

Perry appeared on ABC's "This Week"; Cuellar was on CNN's "State of the Union"; Graham was on CBS' "Face the Nation."

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