Harry Reid: We Want Quick Passage of $3.7 Billion Migrant Kids Bill

Wednesday, 09 Jul 2014 12:04 AM

By Cathy Burke

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Democrats are pushing for quick passage of a $3.7 billion emergency funding bill to deal with the thousands of children pouring into the country from Mexico, but Republicans are demanding a close look at the proposal — and assurances the border will be secured.

The Obama administration says government action is crucial, projecting more than 150,000 unaccompanied children may flee the poverty and violence in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, and join 52,000 who minors have already been caught trying to sneak into the United States since October.

And hours after the White House announced the package, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he wanted to finish a bill by Congress’s August recess.

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Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell was more cautious, saying Obama's request needed a close look to "see if it's an appropriate response to the crisis," and Speaker John Boehner agreed, vowing a review by House Republicans and reiterating his call to immediately send the National Guard to help secure the border, The Hill reported.

Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz said he’d "wait to see what the precise details are."

"I support anything that makes meaningful steps to actually secure the border," Cruz said. "But the Obama administration has demonstrated for five years they have zero interest in actually securing the border."

The White House said the largest portion of the requested funding, $1.8 billion, would pay to care for the children while in U.S. custody. Other funds would go to beefing up border enforcement, hiring more immigration judges to speed up deportations and paying for programs to discourage deported children from again trying to slip into the United States illegally.

"The main thing we have to do is recognize that we have an emergency," Reid said.

Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn said he wanted more concrete solutions, complaining Obama was "asking for a blank check in effect, $3.7 billion, with no reforms," The Hill reported.

Other Republicans insisted the package deal specifically with border security.

"If you’re going to spend $3.7 billion, let's make sure we're not just throwing money at a short-term problem," said Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, who helped negotiate an immigration bill that passed the Senate a year ago, The Hill noted.

"Let’s make sure it's broader than that."

Some Senate Democrats also were concerned the bill's goal to make it easier to deport children more quickly would require a change in a 2008 law granting an asylum hearing to any minor from a country that doesn't border the United States.

"I hope at the end of the day it is still basically fair and humanitarian. We’re dealing with children here,” said Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois. "Everybody's very concerned. I’m one of them."

The Senate Appropriations Committee announced it would hold a hearing on Thursday to talk about the spending bill.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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