Financial titans and political rainmakers from both sides of the aisle pushed Washington to pass immigration reform this week as the Obama administration waited for congressional action on a requested $3.7 billion needed urgently to address the border crisis.
Republican super donor Sheldon Adelson co-wrote a New York Times op-ed on Thursday, along with Warren Buffet and Bill Gates. Adelson, chairman and chief executive of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation, donated more than $10 million to the failed 2012 presidential bid by Mitt Romney and is currently shopping for a new candidate to support in 2016. His participation in the op-ed signals that donors are looking for candidates who can lead, not punt, on immigration.
“You don’t have to agree on everything in order to cooperate on matters about which you are reasonably close to agreement. It’s time that this brand of thinking finds its way to Washington,” Adelson, Gates and Buffet wrote in the column. They called on legislators to ensure all prospective immigrants follow regulations, and declared that the individuals who break the rules should be punished.
The Republican leadership in the House has all but killed chances for immigration reform, pushed by President Barack Obama and supported by 62% of Americans. The president said this week that legislation, combined with the emergency supplemental funding, would go a long way to solving most of the major problems with border security and undocumented immigrants.
Department of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson echoed the funding request during a hearing of the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday. He made official a figure that the U.S. Border Patrol had been using: as many as 90,000 children could enter the country by the end of this year from Central America.
“I know that additional money alone will not fully address the challenge we face, and we do not make this request lightly. While building capacity is necessary, we must also ramp up our ability to safely and quickly return the influx of these recent border crossers, which is exactly what we are doing,” he said during his testimony. More than 52,000 undocumented children have been apprehended along the border since October, most of them fleeing violence and instability in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.
Obama earlier this week requested the emergency funds from Congress to address the ongoing crisis.
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement will deplete funds to maintain operations by August without supplemental assets, Johnson said. Additionally, the Department of Health and Human Services won’t be able to address the surplus of children by securing sufficient shelter capacity, thus leading to more kids being held at short-term border patrol processing.
Earlier this week, Johnson traveled to Guatemala for his sixth visit to the border in the past month. He will travel to New Mexico on Friday to visit a temporary immigration detention center, and later meet with officials in Texas.
“Those who cross our border illegally must know there is no safe passage, and no free pass; within the confines of our laws, our values, and our resources, they will be sent back to their home countries,” he said during his testimony.
Republicans have met the White House’s monetary appeal with hesitance, instead blaming the president and demanding he take responsibility for the situation. Some legislators have expressed concern that the money won’t fix the root problem of undocumented immigrants fleeing to the United States. Republican Rep. Hal Rogers, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, told reporters Friday that the White House is requesting “too much” money that is already being considered in the regular bill process for 2015, according to NBC News’ Frank Thorp.
Some Democrats have spoken against Obama’s request, too. Congressman John Barrow, who has voted with Republicans in the past and doesn’t support the president’s recent appeal for funds, said the administration should focus on securing the border and enforcing current laws.
“Just throwing money at the symptoms of the problem doesn’t address the underlying causes of the problem. We need to address the vulnerabilities at our border that got us in this mess in the first place,” he said Friday.
The GOP also criticized Obama for not visiting the border during his trip to Texas to attend Democratic fundraisers this week.
Although he didn’t visit the border, Obama met with Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Wednesday to discuss possible solutions to the situation the White House has deemed a humanitarian crisis. Perry sent the president a response letter, in which he expressed his belief that a secure border is attainable and the urgent need for Obama’s actions. Perry pressed for the president to visit the border.
Perry also suggested the government pursue long-term solutions, including deploying an additional 1,000 National Guard troops, allowing the National Guard to use drones to identify human and drug trafficking, and conducting medical screens of undocumented immigrants.