Republican lawmakers say that any deal to approve President Barack Obama's request for $3.7 billion to address the escalating immigration crisis must include a change in the law that would force swift deportations of Central American minors crossing the southern U.S. border illegally.
According to The Wall Street Journal,
Republicans are focusing on changing a 2008 law that aimed to protect children from human trafficking by placing them with sponsors in the United States while they await court deportation hearings.
Some in the GOP now say that while children should be "returned to their home countries in the most humane way possible," it should no longer be a legal requirement that foreign children have their cases heard by immigration courts.
"If we're going to allow money to go to solve the current crisis, we've got to make some policy changes to make sure it doesn't recur," Nevada GOP Rep. Joe Heck told the Journal.
Meanwhile, during a hearing on Wednesday, Oklahoma GOP Sen. Tom Coburn got confirmation from an HHS official that the administration has a policy not to investigate the legal status of host families.
Coburn told CNN
he believes the policy will create a high probability that illegal children will not show up for their immigration hearings if they are staying with other undocumented immigrants.
"Airplanes should be landing everyday to bring these children back to their countries," Coburn said. "The president just asked for $3.7 billion dollars. For less than $20 million we can fly them all back first class."
He added, "We have a law on the books which we need to change and then we need to solve the problem by repatriating within 72 hours to their country of origin."
As it stands, Mexican and Canadian illegal immigrants are deported immediately, but for undocumented migrants arriving from other countries, the law stipulates that border control cannot hold them for more than 72 hours and they cannot be automatically repatriated.
The effort to revise the law is being led by House Speaker John Boehner as well as a number of rank-and-file Republicans, and it appears the administration is also warm to the idea.
On Wednesday the president asked for more flexibility in the law and suggested the administration wants the authority for the secretary of Homeland Security to waive the provision as needed.
He also proposed the changes be part of the approval of the emergency spending bill.
"This is an issue which my Republican friends have said is urgent and we need to fix it. And if that's the case, let's go ahead and fix it," Obama said, according to the Journal.
But some Democrats say the proposed legal solution of turning away migrants conflicts with America's humanitarian responsibilities, and civil rights groups are have filed a lawsuit which seeks to require agencies to provide children with legal representation and deportation hearings, according to the Journal.
"It's very clear that many of these children and families are fleeing violence, and to send them back could mean to send them back into a harmful or potentially deadly situation," Texas Democratic Rep. Beto O'Rourke, one of five Texas Democrats who represent districts on the border with Mexico, told the Journal.
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