President Barack Obama, a Democrat, has requested $3.7 billion in
emergency funds to bolster border security and speed up
But the Republican speaker said Democratic lawmakers' resistance to
changing a 2008 law that combats human trafficking was making
Obama's funding request "much more difficult to deal with" and
darkened the outlook for bipartisan agreement before the start of a
five-week recess on Aug. 1.
While Boehner placed the blame on Democrats, it was not yet clear
whether enough of his own Republicans would be willing to vote for
the extra money.
"I would certainly hope so but I don't have as much optimism as I'd
like to have," Boehner said at a news briefing.
The Obama administration has warned Congress that U.S. Immigration
and Customs Enforcement would run out of money by mid-August and
that U.S. Customs and Border Protection funds would be depleted by
mid-September. The Department of Health and Human Services also was
rapidly running out of money to house the children temporarily while
they await their hearings, officials said.
Many Republicans want to use Obama's emergency funding request to
change the 2008 human trafficking law, which gives some immigrant
children more protections from deportation. They, and Obama, think
that the law might be encouraging Central American children to flock
to the United States illegally.
The law gave added protections for children arriving from countries
that do not border the United States, including those from El
Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, the three countries where the bulk
of the new arrivals are coming from.
While there was a humanitarian crisis that needed to be dealt with,
Boehner said, "I don't know how Congress can send more money to the
border to begin to mitigate the problem if you don't do something
about the '08 law that is being abused."
Many congressional Democrats oppose changing the law, despite some
Obama administration officials saying they would be open to it.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said on Thursday that she did
not think a change in the 2008 law was needed.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez said
Congress should not "rush to change our laws in a way that would
strip these children of their rights to due process."
[to top of second column]
House Republicans said on Tuesday that they were working to pare
Obama's request to fund the most immediate needs.
A leading Senate conservative, Ted Cruz, said on Thursday he would
introduce legislation to prohibit Obama from granting amnesty to
people who are in the country illegally, as he said Obama did in
2012 when he eased deportations of some children brought to the
United States illegally by their parents.
Cruz's bill, unlikely to pass the Democratic-run Senate, reflects
conservative Republican thinking that Obama is to blame for the
influx of child immigrants because he did not enforce deportation
law against those already here..
The Obama administration has been struggling to gain control of the
influx of newcomers, which is overwhelming immigration resources and
leading to scattered protests from people angry at the government
for housing border crossers in their communities.
The issue is resonating with Americans, with polls this week showing
them increasingly concerned about how to deal with the children. A
Pew Research survey on Wednesday showed about half the public
supports a U.S. policy shift to speed up the processing of children,
even if it includes deportation.
(Additional reporting by Richard Cowan, Susan Heavey and Patricia
Zengerle; Editing by Bernard Orr and Jonathan Oatis)
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.