As a humanitarian crisis grows along the United States’ southwestern border, where thousands of unaccompanied children from Central America have arrived, Republican lawmakers are piling on President Obama’s request for emergency funding.
"If we don't address the root cause of the problem, and that is sending kids back where they came from … then it won't matter how much money we spend," said Sen. John McCain Sunday on CNN’s "State of the Union."
Under fire for his handling of the border crisis, President Obama asked Congress last week to approve $3.7 billion in emergency appropriations to address the influx of child migrants crossing the Southwest border and Rio Grande. According to government statistics, approximately 50,000 unaccompanied children have illegally moved into the U.S. since October. Most are from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.
Because of a 2008 anti-trafficking law, approved by Congress with near unanimous support and signed by President George W. Bush, children from non-neighboring countries -- Canada or Mexico -- must be given full legal review for asylum. Administration officials now say smugglers have taken advantage of that statute, persuading Central American parents to pay thousands of dollars in order to get their children into the U.S.
Combined with a 2012 executive order, allowing those who came illegally as children to remain in the country, Republicans argue that the U.S. has sent a tacit invitation for younger immigrants to brave the dangerous journey north. Now, they argue, it’s time to send the opposite message.
"I think we have to deal with this in a humane, compassionate way, but I'm not in favor of building big warehouses in the United States to warehouse these kids," said Rep. Mike McCaul of Texas, chairman of House Homeland Security Committee, on Fox News Sunday. "I think we need to have deterrence."
McCaul said Republican lawmakers would consider his border-security bill, which calls for 90% of all illegal border crossers to be apprehended, as part of their recommendations. Any emergency funding approved by the House, he said, would likely run only through the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.
“Look, we’re not going to write a blank check,” said McCaul.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry also criticized Obama’s request Sunday, arguing instead for a boost in National Guard troops.
"They need to be right on the river," said the Republican governor on Fox News Sunday. “They need to be there as a show of force because that’s the message that gets sent back very quickly back to central America.”