The White House is requesting billions of dollars from Congress on Tuesday to help with the ongoing crisis at the southwestern border of the country.
The appeal tacks-on additional funds to the multi-billion-dollar proposal unveiled by President Barack Obama last week, with a total of $3.7 billion for heightened border enforcement, immigration judges, attorneys, asylum officials, and resources for U.S. Border Patrol agents. The proposal had previously urged Congress to expand the Obama administration’s authority to speed up deportation proceedings for the thousands of unaccompanied minors at the border, but the White House backed down late Monday after facing opposition from human rights groups.
While it remains uncertain whether the White House will bring up the deportation proposal separately, officials made clear that the administration intends on returning the bulk of the children back to their home countries.
“While we will observe due process rights and observe humanitarian considerations, people will be returned to the region,” a White House official told reporters Tuesday. “Children who do not qualify for humanitarian relief will be returned.”
But human rights and refugee groups have raised grave concerns that expediting the due process rights of these children would trigger a number of problems. A 2008 law enacted under former President George W. Bush bolstered protections for young children who traveled to America from countries that do not border the United States. Advocates fear that rolling back those protections could lead to sending children back into harm’s way when they could potentially qualify for asylum status.
A number of lawmakers, however, are anxious to process the children as quickly as possible and return them to their home countries in hope that mass deportations will deter other children from attempting the dangerous journey North in the future.
The Obama administration has been scrambling to cope with the influx of unaccompanied minors. More than 52,000 unaccompanied migrant children have fled Central American countries since October, walking alone across the U.S.-Mexican border.
The U.S. government has broadcast advertisements disputing the rumors in Central American countries and Mexico. Part of the funds from the new request will also go toward supplementing existing public media campaigns in the regions to send clear signals to the public about the dangers of the trip, White House officials said.
The emergence of at least one scabies outbreak at a Border Patrol facility in the San Diego region is the most recent evidence of the escalating problems facing the Obama administration. With detention centers along the border operating beyond maximum capacity, officials are seeking to quell rumors that children who make their way into the United States qualify for the same temporary status as so-called DREAMers who were brought to America before June 2007.
Republican Texas Gov. Rick Perry agreed to meet with Obama Wednesday to discuss the ongoing security issues. Perry, a critic of the Obama administration’s handling of the influx of unaccompanied children, earlier refused to meet the president when Air Force One lands on the tarmac in Austin. He instead asked that they meet in private to discuss the crisis.
The president will travel to Texas for Democratic fundraisers; not to visit the border.