It was President Barack Obama's most substantive effort to gain
control of a humanitarian crisis along the Texas border with Mexico
and fend off Republican Party critics demanding a tougher response.
One of those critics, Texas Governor Rick Perry, was due to meet
Obama in Dallas on Wednesday during a roundtable Obama has scheduled
on the topic with faith leaders and local officials, White House
spokesman Josh Earnest said. Whether the two meet privately
one-on-one was yet to be determined, Earnest told reporters. On
Sunday Perry accused the administration of moving too slowly and
called for National Guard troops to be sent to the border.
Without government action, the administration projects more than
150,000 unaccompanied children under the age of 18 next year could
be fleeing the rampant poverty and domestic- and gang-related
violence in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. More than 52,000
unaccompanied minors from the three countries have been caught
trying to sneak over the border since October, double the number
from the same period the year before.
The proposed actions will test Obama's ability to negotiate
effectively with Republican lawmakers who have blocked much of his
agenda ahead of a November election when they hope to capture the
U.S. Senate from Obama's Democratic Party.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, said he thought the
Senate could pass the emergency funding bill this month, before the
start of a long summer recess. But House and Senate Republican
leaders could insist on offsetting any new funds with cuts in other
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell would only say that Obama's
request needed a close look to "see if it's an appropriate response
to the crisis." 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 and paying for programs
to discourage deported children from again trying to slip into the
United States illegally.
Separately, a Justice Department official told Reuters the United
States plans to give priority to child migrants over adults in
deportation hearings. The new policy, to be announced on Wednesday,
means immigration courts will now hear first from newly arrived
children, while adult immigrants not in detention, including those
who are seeking asylum, will have to wait longer, the official said.
[to top of second column]
Central America, a key transshipment point for drug smuggling
between South America and the United States, has a long history of
gang violence and the problem has mushroomed in recent years owing
to turf wars fought by ruthless Mexican drug cartels. Honduras has
the world’s highest murder rate, according to a report released by
the United Nations in April.
Besides seeking the additional funding, Obama has said he wants more
tools to speed the children's deportation. He has yet to submit a
formal request for legislation expanding the Department of Homeland
Security's ability to expel the children while circumventing lengthy
immigration court procedures.
In vowing to swiftly return the children to their home countries,
Obama risks the wrath of Hispanic-American allies who look to him to
act on his own to loosen, not strengthen, immigration rules.
Seeking to make the request more politically acceptable to
lawmakers, the White House added $615 million in urgently needed
money to fight summer wildfires raging in western states. This
brought the total funding request to $4.315 billion.
(Additional reporting by Mark Felsenthal, Jon Herskovitz, Jeff
Mason, David Lawder and Susan Heavey; Editing by Caren Bohan and
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