CAPITOL HILL - Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives have presented their proposals for dealing with the crisis of tens of thousands of children from Central America who have crossed the border into the United States in recent months. The proposal rejects the level of emergency funding requested by President Barack Obama, and is likely to conflict with a border bill now being worked out in the Democratic-led Senate.
House Republicans gathered early Wednesday to hear the recommendations from the chair of a working group on the border crisis, Congresswoman Kay Granger. The Republican proposal would deploy National Guard troops to the border to assist in the care of unaccompanied children coming over - and free up Border Patrol agents to do their primary job of securing the border.
One of the group's key recommendations also is the one most likely to be rejected by Senate Democrats - amending the 2008 anti-trafficking law that gives children from Central America the right to stay in the United States long enough to have their day in court.
The House plan would treat Central American children the same as Mexican children - which means Border Patrol agents could decide to send them back right away. Republican House Speaker John Boehner told reporters that the president needs to come out publicly in favor of changes to the law.
“Without trying to fix the problem, I don’t know how we are actually in a position to give the president any more money,” said Boehner.
Boehner said the House bill likely would call for about $1.5 billion for the crisis - substantially less than the $ 3.7 billion the president has asked for. House Democrats say Republicans are fixated on boosting border security, instead of addressing the broader question of immigration reform.
Democratic Congressman Joe Garcia of Florida said, “Just throwing more money at the border is not going to fix the problem. Sending the National Guard to the border is not going to do it either. In fact, it is pure political posturing. What we need is comprehensive immigration reform now.”
Senate Democrats have said that they will move forward next week with their own plan to deal with the crisis, and many of them have spoken up against any changes to the 2008 measure. Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said it is up to the president to get things moving.
“What we are saying is, cut out the campaigning, tell your party’s leadership in the Senate to get serious and work with members of both parties to get this addressed,” said McConnell.
The White House has signaled that it may be willing to accept changes to the 2008 law that would give officials the chance to process the children at the border more quickly. Administration officials say Congress needs to urgently authorize more funding, because border control agencies are running out of money to care for the children. Obama plans to meet Friday with the presidents of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador - the three countries from where the vast majority of children are fleeing - to discuss how to stem the influx.