WASHINGTON - Clues could emerge this week whether America’s politically divided Congress will approve funds requested by President Barack Obama to address a surge of immigrants illegally crossing the southwestern U.S. border.
It is a situation everyone agrees is intolerable: unaccompanied minors risking their lives to reach the United States, warehoused in overcrowded detention facilities, and ineligible under current U.S. law for quick deportation to their country of origin.
Virginia Republican Congressman Bob Goodlatte said tougher border enforcement must come first.
“We should do targeted appropriations where it is needed to make sure that we are able to detain people and send them back to their country," Goodlatte said.
"Most of the money the president is asking for is to continue the process of further transporting these children - and adults, by the way - further into the United States," he said.
But a security surge at the border alone will not solve the problem, because U.S. law mandates immigration hearings for non-Mexican arrivals.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said, “The immigration laws are being enforced, though we are faced with an extraordinary situation where thousands of people, young people especially, are fleeing Central America.
"Our immigration laws are broken. It is why we need comprehensive immigration reform," Holder added.
Last year, the Senate approved an overhaul of America’s immigration system to boost border enforcement and provide an arduous path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants.
The Republican-led House of Representatives has not voted on the Senate bill or any alternative.
Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn blamed Obama for the current border crisis.
“There is a powerful incentive for people to travel to the United States. Obviously we understand people who want opportunity, people who are trying to flee violence," Cornyn said.
"But the president has effectively encouraged children and their parents to make this treacherous, life-threatening journey by suggesting he will not enforce the law," he added.
Such criticisms are baseless so long as Congress does nothing, said Democratic Senator Robert Menendez.
“It is easy to say 'No.' It is far more difficult to be constructive. And so far what I have heard in response to this crisis is the negativity of ‘No’, the criticism of the president for using executive powers when the Congress fails to act in its own right," Menendez said.
"You cannot have it both ways. This is a moment to call for the greater interest of the nation, [rather] than play the politics I have seen unfold so far," he said.
Time is growing short for action on Obama's funding request. Congress will be in recess from early August through early September.