Senate Democrats are rolling out a funding bill set a full $1 billion below President Obama’s request for funds to cope with the flood of undocumented immigrant children at the southwestern border.
The president requested a $3.7 billion package earlier this month to handle the thousands of unaccompanied minors who have crossed into the United States illegally. Congressional Republicans have stalled on the measure, complaining that the proposal is too costly and doesn’t go far enough in bolstering border security.
Maryland Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski, chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, is expected to introduce the emergency funding bill this week requesting $2.7 billion to send to the border.
Unlike other proposals brought forward in Congress and floated by the White House, the bill does not include provisions to alter a 2008 human trafficking bill in order to speed up deportations for children at the border who do not qualify for humanitarian relief in the U.S. Some Democrats have been split on rolling back the protections amid concerns that children who would otherwise qualify for asylum would risk deportation and further danger if returned to their home country.
“The United States has an obligation to help resolve these crises, but is running out of money,” Mikulski said in a statement Tuesday. “The costs are real and urgent. We don’t save money by refusing to act or through delay.”
A Republican working group assessing the situation at the border released its policy recommendations Wednesday to amend the 2008 law, dispatch the National Guard to help assist on humanitarian care for the children and establish a third-party commission to analyze progress on border security.
After visiting the Central American countries where the majority of the children are traveling from, Texas Rep. Kay Granger, chairwoman of the Republican working group, also recommended establishing repatriation centers in the countries of origin in order to facilitate swift deportations from the U.S.
“In our personal meetings with the presidents of Honduras and Guatemala they both stated that they wanted their children back, and we believe that is in the best interest of all the countries involved in this crisis,” Granger said in a statement Wednesday. “We look forward to working with these countries as they prepare to receive their children back.”
The Obama administration is pressing Congress to act on legislation before lawmakers leave for a scheduled month-long break in August. During that time, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said funding for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement will run out. The U.S. Customs and Border Patrol is also expected to run out of money by mid-September, Johnson said.
“Doing nothing in Congress is not an option,” he said Tuesday at a press conference.
Though the number of unaccompanied children who have crossed into the U.S. has increased by more than 100% in the last year, Johnson said Tuesday that the administration had managed to decrease processing times for deporting adults from nearly 33 days to four days. Meanwhile, fewer children have attempted to make the journey across the border in recent weeks, but it is unclear whether the drop in border crossings is associated with the administration’s efforts to stem the flow of kids.
“We’re not declaring victory,” Johnson said. “This could be seasonal, but the numbers are dropping.”