Obama seeks money, fast hearings to curb young migrant surge

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...

By Steve Holland and Richard Cowen

Obama seeks money, fast hearings to curb young migrant surge
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 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)
FILE - This June 18, 2014, file photo shows a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer as he helps a few boys to make phone calls, some of the hundreds of mostly Central American immigrant children that are being processed and held at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Nogales Placement Center in Nogales, Ariz. Thousands of immigrant children crossing alone into the U.S. can live in American cities, attend public schools and possibly work here for years without consequences. The chief reasons are an overburdened, deeply flawed system of immigration courts and a 2002 law intended to protect children's welfare, an Associated Press investigation finds. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, Pool, File)
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 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)
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)
Detainees watch a World Cup soccer match from 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)
Detainees sleep and watch television 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)
U.S. Customs and Border Protection operations officer Mark Qualia talks about how detainees have their belongings kept 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)
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)
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION


(Reuters) - The U.S. administration sought on Tuesday to halt a cross-border surge of unaccompanied children from Central America, asking Congress for $3.7 billion in emergency spending and putting in place plans to quicken the youngsters' deportation hearings.

It was President Barack Obama's most substantive effort to gain control of a humanitarian crisis along the Texas border with Mexico and fend off Republican Party critics demanding a tougher response.

Immigrant Children Focus Of Obama's $3.7 Billion Request

One of those critics, Texas Governor Rick Perry, was due to meet Obama in Dallas on Wednesday during a roundtable Obama has scheduled on the topic with faith leaders and local officials, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said. Whether the two meet privately one-on-one was yet to be determined, Earnest told reporters. On Sunday Perry accused the administration of moving too slowly and called for National Guard troops to be sent to the border.

Without government action, the administration projects more than 150,000 unaccompanied children under the age of 18 next year could be fleeing the rampant poverty and domestic- and gang-related violence in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. More than 52,000 unaccompanied minors from the three countries have been caught trying to sneak over the border since October, double the number from the same period the year before.

The proposed actions will test Obama's ability to negotiate effectively with Republican lawmakers who have blocked much of his agenda ahead of a November election when they hope to capture the U.S. Senate from Obama's Democratic Party.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, said he thought the Senate could pass the emergency funding bill this month, before the start of a long summer recess. But House and Senate Republican leaders could insist on offsetting any new funds with cuts in other budget items.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell would only say that Obama's request needed a close look to "see if it's an appropriate response to the crisis." The White House said the largest portion of the requested funding, $1.8 billion, would pay to care for the children while in U.S. custody. Other funds would go to beefing up border enforcement, hiring more immigration judges and paying for programs to discourage deported children from again trying to slip into the United States illegally.

CHILDREN FIRST

Separately, a Justice Department official told Reuters the United States plans to give priority to child migrants over adults in deportation hearings. The new policy, to be announced on Wednesday, means immigration courts will now hear first from newly arrived children, while adult immigrants not in detention, including those who are seeking asylum, will have to wait longer, the official said.

Central America, a key transshipment point for drug smuggling between South America and the United States, has a long history of gang violence and the problem has mushroomed in recent years owing to turf wars fought by ruthless Mexican drug cartels. Honduras has the world's highest murder rate, according to a report released by the United Nations in April.

Besides seeking the additional funding, Obama has said he wants more tools to speed the children's deportation. He has yet to submit a formal request for legislation expanding the Department of Homeland Security's ability to expel the children while circumventing lengthy immigration court procedures.

In vowing to swiftly return the children to their home countries, Obama risks the wrath of Hispanic-American allies who look to him to act on his own to loosen, not strengthen, immigration rules.

Seeking to make the request more politically acceptable to lawmakers, the White House added $615 million in urgently needed money to fight summer wildfires raging in western states. This brought the total funding request to $4.315 billion.

Read Full Story

People are Reading

The Latest from our Partners
1 - 3 of 15