Obama seeks $3.7 billion to deal with border kids

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Obama seeks $3.7 billion to deal with border kids
Protesters gather outside the Mexican Consulate, Friday, July 18, 2014, in Austin, Texas. Prospects for action on the U.S.-Mexico border crisis faded Thursday as lawmakers traded accusations rather than solutions, raising chances that Congress will go into its summer recess without doing anything about the tens of thousands of migrant children streaming into South Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Bill Lambert yells as he joins demonstrators outside the Mexican Consulate Friday, July 18, 2014, in Houston. The sharp contrast in how Americans are reacting to the immigrant influx mirrors the divisiveness seen in Congress as the nation’s leaders attempt to find solutions to an issue that could worsen in the coming months. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Demonstrators hold signs and yell outside the Mexican Consulate Friday, July 18, 2014, in Houston. Prospects for action on the U.S.-Mexico border crisis faded Thursday as lawmakers traded accusations rather than solutions, raising chances that Congress will go into its summer recess without doing anything about the tens of thousands of migrant children streaming into South Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Diana Barrera, a U.S. naturalized citizen from Columbia, yells as she demonstrates outside the Mexican Consulate Friday, July 18, 2014, in Houston. Prospects for action on the U.S.-Mexico border crisis faded Thursday as lawmakers traded accusations rather than solutions, raising chances that Congress will go into its summer recess without doing anything about the tens of thousands of migrant children streaming into South Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Jose DeLeon, who was born in Texas, holds up a sign as he joins demonstrators outside the Mexican Consulate Friday, July 18, 2014, in Houston. Prospects for action on the U.S.-Mexico border crisis faded Thursday as lawmakers traded accusations rather than solutions, raising chances that Congress will go into its summer recess without doing anything about the tens of thousands of migrant children streaming into South Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Mexican children born in the United States and deported to Mexico take part in a protest organized by the Meso-American Migrant Movement to demand the deportation of Mexicans from the US to stop, on May 2, 2013 in front of the US embassy in Mexico City. Migration will be among the top issues when US President Barack Obama visits Mexico and Costa Rica this week, and many in the region hope Washington will finally act to give 11 million undocumented workers a path to citizenship. Obama headed to Mexico on Thursday to put trade back at the heart of bilateral ties, but his southern neighbour's shifting drug war tactics loom large over the visit. AFP PHOTO / Yuri CORTEZ (Photo credit should read YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
A counter-protestor holds a sign supporting immigration outside a US Border Patrol facility in Murrieta during an anti-immigration protest in Murrieta, California, on July 7, 2014. Protestors are opposing the arrival of buses carrying undocumented women and children migrants for processing at the Murrieta Border Patrol Station. Deportations of illegal migrants crossing the US border are being stepped up, a top Obama administration official said on Sunday, defending the White House's handling of a flood of undocumented children. AFP PHOTO / Robyn Beck (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JULY 07: Heather Piña Ledezma, who turned 6 on July 4th, attends a rally with mother who is from Mexico, on the steps of the St. John's Episcopal Church near the White House, July 7, 2014. Immigration advocates gathered to call on the Obama administration to relieve the the undocumented families and children fleeing Central America. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Protestors leave an anti-illegal immigration protest outside a US Border Patrol facility in Murrieta, California, on July 7, 2014. Protestors are opposing the arrival of buses carrying undocumented women and children migrants for processing at the Murrieta Border Patrol Station. Deportations of illegal migrants crossing the US border are being stepped up, a top Obama administration official said on Sunday, defending the White House's handling of a flood of undocumented children. AFP PHOTO / Robyn Beck (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
Young boys sleep in a holding cell 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 Wednesday, June 18, 2014, in Nogales, Ariz. CPB provided media tours Wednesday of two locations in Brownsville, Texas, and Nogales, that have been central to processing the more than 47,000 unaccompanied children who have entered the country illegally since Oct. 1. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, Pool)
Boys wait in line to make a phone call 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 Wednesday, June 18, 2014, in Nogales, Ariz. CPB provided media tours Wednesday of two locations in Brownsville, Texas, and Nogales, that have been central to processing the more than 47,000 unaccompanied children who have entered the country illegally since Oct. 1. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, Pool)
Two young girls watch a World Cup soccer match on a television from their 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 Wednesday, June 18, 2014, in Nogales, Ariz. CPB provided media tours Wednesday of two locations in Brownsville, Texas, and Nogales, that have been central to processing the more than 47,000 unaccompanied children who have entered the country illegally since Oct. 1. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, Pool)
A demonstrator holds a sign reading 'It's Not About Hate, It's About Love For Our Own' at a protest near the entrance to the US Border Patrol facility in Murrieta, California, on July 7, 2014. The protestors are opposing the arrival of buses carrying undocumented women and children migrants for processing at the Murrieta Border Patrol Station. Deportations of illegal migrants crossing the US border are being stepped up, a top Obama adminstration official said on Sunday, defending the White House's handling of a flood of undocumented children. AFP PHOTO / Robyn Beck (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
A U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer helps two young boys pick out clothes as they join hundreds of mostly Central American immigrant children as they are being processed and held at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Nogales Placement Center on Wednesday, June 18, 2014, in Nogales, Ariz. CPB provided media tours Wednesday of two locations in Brownsville, Texas, and Nogales, that have been central to processing the more than 47,000 unaccompanied children who have entered the country illegally since Oct. 1. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, Pool)
A young boy walks over to use the toilet while in his 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 Wednesday, June 18, 2014, in Nogales, Ariz. CPB provided media tours Wednesday of two locations in Brownsville, Texas, and Nogales, that have been central to processing the more than 47,000 unaccompanied children who have entered the country illegally since Oct. 1. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, Pool)
US Border patrol agents keep watch outside the entrance to the US Border Patrol facility in Murrieta during an anti-immigration protest in Murrieta, California, on July 7, 2014. Protestors are opposing the arrival of buses carrying undocumented women and children migrants for processing at the Murrieta Border Patrol Station. Deportations of illegal migrants crossing the US border are being stepped up, a top Obama administration official said on Sunday, defending the White House's handling of a flood of undocumented children. AFP PHOTO / Robyn Beck (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
Young boys sleep in a holding cell 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 Wednesday, June 18, 2014, in Nogales, Ariz. CPB provided media tours Wednesday of two locations in Brownsville, Texas, and Nogales, that have been central to processing the more than 47,000 unaccompanied children who have entered the country illegally since Oct. 1. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, Pool)
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 Wednesday, June 18, 2014, in Nogales, Ariz. CPB provided media tours Wednesday of two locations in Brownsville, Texas, and Nogales, that have been central to processing the more than 47,000 unaccompanied children who have entered the country illegally since Oct. 1. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, Pool)
A few boys try to make 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 Wednesday, June 18, 2014, in Nogales, Ariz. CPB provided media tours Wednesday of two locations in Brownsville, Texas, and Nogales, that have been central to processing the more than 47,000 unaccompanied children who have entered the country illegally since Oct. 1. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, Pool)
Demonstrators hold American flags near the entrance to the US Border Patrol facility in Murrieta, California on July 7, 2014. protestors are opposing the arrival of buses carrying undocumented women and children migrants for processing at the Murrieta Border Patrol Station. Deportations of illegal migrants crossing the US border are being stepped up, a top Obama administration official said on Sunday, defending the White House's handling of a flood of undocumented children. AFP PHOTO / Robyn Beck (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
Protestor Jennifer Bryan and her sons Wyatt, 11, and Jack, 8, holds signs opposing the arrival of buses carrying undocumented women and children migrants for processing at the Murrieta Border Patrol Station, near the entrance to the station in Murrieta, California, on July 7, 2014. Deportations of illegal migrants crossing the US border are being stepped up, a top Obama administration official said on Sunday, defending the White House's handling of a flood of undocumented children. AFP PHOTO / Robyn Beck (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama shakes hands with a boy after disembarking from Air Force One on May 10, 2011 at the Biggs Army Airfield in El Paso, Texas. US Obama will deliver a speech in on immigration reform in El Paso, Texas, across the Mexican border from violence-wracked Ciudad Juarez. Obama has recently revived his goal of achieving comprehensive immigration reform, opening a path to legalization for the estimated 11 million foreign nationals living in the country illegally, most of them Hispanics. AFP PHOTO/Jewel Samad (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JULY 07: Aury Terriquez, left, 6, whose parents are from Guatemala, and Lucia Jimenez, 5, whose parents are from Bolivia, attend a rally on the steps of the St. John's Episcopal Church near the White House, July 7, 2014. Immigration advocates gathered to call on the Obama administration to relieve the the undocumented families and children fleeing Central America. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 07: Immigration reform protesters listen to speakers during an immigration rally July 7, 2014 in Washington, DC. 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'. Following the rally, the protesters marched in front of the White House. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
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By Erica Werner and Jim Kuhnhenn

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama appealed to Congress on Tuesday for $3.7 billion in emergency spending to deal with the immigration crisis on the nation's southern border, where unaccompanied children have been showing up by the thousands in a human drama that's causing a political storm in Washington and beyond.

Obama himself was flying to Texas on Wednesday, a trip designed mostly for political fundraising for Democrats but now including a meeting on immigration with religious and local leaders in Dallas. He rejected pressure from Republican Gov. Rick Perry to visit the border for a firsthand look.

In Washington, Democrats and some Republicans on Capitol Hill seemed open to approving the emergency money, which would go toward hiring more immigration judges and asylum officers, building more detention facilities, boosting deterrence and enforcement and increasing surveillance along the border with Mexico. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said the Senate would act on it this month.

Obama said in a formal letter of request that the money was needed to "address this urgent humanitarian situation."

But Senate Democrats voiced skepticism about other changes the White House has said it wants that would send the minors back to Central America more quickly, partly by limiting their existing rights to court hearings. Those proposals, which are not part of Tuesday's request, have infuriated immigrant advocates who say they would result in harsher treatment of kids and eliminate their legal protections.

"Everybody's very concerned. I'm one of them," said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill. "I just want to make sure that at the end of the day we're being fair, humane and doing this in an orderly way."

At the same time Republicans criticized Obama for stepping back from asking for those legal changes, which the White House initially had said would come in concert with the emergency spending request. The White House now says those proposals will come later.

"He just decided not to do that because of the pushback he got from some in his own political base," said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas. "We need to solve the problem, but you don't need to just ignore the cause of the current crisis. And that requires more than just appropriating $3.7 billion for additional judges and the like."

The back-and-forth came as lawmakers reconvened on Capitol Hill after a weeklong July 4 recess and suggested political struggles ahead over the unfolding situation at the border. More than 50,000 young people have showed up unaccompanied since last fall, many fleeing oppressive violence in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, but also drawn by rumors that once in the U.S. they would be allowed to stay.

Lawmakers are now beginning to confront the full dimensions of the crisis, and their responsibility to act, with midterm elections around the corner. It all comes with comprehensive immigration legislation dead in Congress for the year and Obama preparing to take steps by his executive authority to change the nation's faulty immigration system where he can - plans that could be complicated by the border crisis.

Cornyn and other Republicans kept up their criticism of Obama's decision not to include a border visit in his Texas trip, but the White House held firm, instead adding the meeting on immigration to Obama's schedule in Dallas. Perry announced plans to attend.

As for the spending request, some Republicans said they would have to review the details before weighing in. "We're going to take a look at it. This is clearly a huge crisis," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, a Republican, called the situation on the border "extremely dire" and said that additional funding clearly would be needed to care for the children, enforce the law and secure the border. "Our committee will focus on providing what is necessary," said Rogers.

Meanwhile officials with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said they want many of the Central Americans to be treated as refugees displaced by armed conflict, a designation that could increase pressure on the U.S. to accept tens of thousands currently ineligible for asylum.

Asked about that, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said individuals coming from Central America are already entitled to due process.

But White House officials are seeking to change a 2008 law signed by President George W. Bush that guarantees immigration hearings to minors who arrive in this country from noncontiguous countries - anywhere other than Mexico or Canada. The law was pushed to combat sex trafficking and give young people new protections.

In the current crisis, it's resulted in children from Central American countries being released to family members or into foster care while they face long waits for court hearings they may never attend.

Kids from Mexico, by contrast, are screened by Border Patrol agents who can decide to send them back unless determining they have a fear of return that merits additional screening. The administration wants to be able to treat Central American children in much that same way.

The White House spending request includes $1.1 billion for the Department of Homeland Security to help deter border-crossers and increase enforcement; $433 million for Customs and Border Protection to cover overtime costs and for additional facilities to detain unaccompanied children while they are in Border Patrol custody; $64 million for the Department of Justice to hire immigration judges, and $1.8 billion for the Department of Health and Human Services for the care of unaccompanied children, including shelter and medical care.

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Associated Press writers David Espo in Washington and Will Weissert in Austin, Texas, contributed.

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