House Republicans plan to vote next week on legislation providing less than $1 billion of the $3.7 billion President Barack Obama requested to address an influx of children at the U.S.-Mexico border.
The measure will also revise a 2008 law to speed the deportation of unaccompanied children who arrive at the border, said Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions of Texas. Democrats oppose including such a provision in a border spending bill, and the dispute is the biggest roadblock to enactment before Congress leaves Washington late next week for an August recess.
“We’ll pass it with Republican votes,” Texas Republican John Carter, a member of the House Republican border working group told reporters yesterday after a private party meeting.
House Republican leaders had proposed a $1.5 billion plan, though some members expressed opposition to spending new money. The final bill will be less than $1 billion, said House Republicans Kristi Noem of South Dakota, Raul Labrador of Idaho and Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina.
The Democratic-led Senate has proposed a $2.7 billion measure that would keep the child-deportation law unchanged.
The 57,000 unaccompanied minors apprehended at the U.S.- Mexico border from Oct. 1 through June 15 are double the total in a similar period a year earlier, according to Customs and Border Protection. Most of the children came from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
President Barack Obama met with the presidents of those three countries yesterday, and he said afterward that he told them they share responsibility for stopping the wave of children fleeing to the U.S.
The administration is considering options for dealing with the influx, including sending National Guard troops to the border and setting up a pilot program to evaluate would-be migrants for refugee status in their home countries.
“There may be some narrow circumstances in which there is humanitarian or refugee status a family may be able to qualify for,” Obama said. “If that is the case, it would be better for them to apply in-country.”
Republicans have insisted that any new money for the border crisis must come with policy changes, including revision of the 2008 law, which was enacted to curb child sex-trafficking.
Republicans want children from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador who arrive unaccompanied at the border to immediately be voluntarily returned to their home country. Those who don’t leave voluntarily would be given a hearing within a week.
Democrats say the 2008 law gives children fleeing violence and poverty a chance to make a claim for asylum, and that it shouldn’t be revised without congressional hearings.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s office said in a statement yesterday that the Republican plan “imposes a sham legal process for unaccompanied children” and raises the likelihood that “children who may be entitled to legal protections are wrongly repatriated to face violence, persecution torture and murder.”
Republicans have said much of the blame for the border crisis can be hung on Obama’s decision to defer deportations of undocumented immigrants who arrived as children.
Though several Republicans pushed to include a repeal of that decision in the coming measure, “I don’t think that was offered as part of the plan,” South Carolina Republican Mick Mulvaney said. A House leadership aide said the bill won’t include that provision.
The new spending will be fully offset by other reductions, several lawmakers said.
“There’s a growing consensus to act,” said Texas Republican Kevin Brady. It’s “hard to know” how many definite “no” votes exist but that number is “getting smaller,” he said.
Republicans hold 234 seats in the House and need 217 votes to pass a bill, assuming no Democrats join them.
Even if the House and Senate pass separate legislation next week, they may not reach a final deal before their five-week recess.
Still, Texas Republican Mike Conaway in an interview, “I don’t want to face town-hall constituents without a Republican answer to some of the questions that reference this border issue.”