Friday, August 1, 2014
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Faster deportations? A possible border crisis deal

Immigration Overload Photo Gallery

In this photo taken July 4, 2014, Marta Beltran, 19, of El Salvador, holds her 18-month-old son, Lenny, as they ride a city shuttle bus from the McAllen city bus station to the Sacred Heart Catholic Church Shelter in McAllen, Texas. About 90 Hondurans a day cross illegally from Mexico into the U.S. at the Rio Grande near McAllen, according to the Honduran Consulate, and the families are then brought to Central Station in McAllen and each is released on their own recognizance. Though most travelers have enough money to purchase their own bus tickets to meet family in cities across the U.S., many have nowhere to stay before the buses leave, and most are in need of rest, medical attention and sustenance. It falls to the local government and charities to welcome the uninvited visitors to America. Tens of thousands have also fled to the U.S. from El Salvador and Guatemala to escape violence. (AP Photo/Austin American-Statesman, Rodolfo Gonzalez)

By
From page A1 | July 11, 2014 |

WASHINGTON — Outlines of a possible compromise that would more quickly deport minors arriving from Central America emerged Thursday as part of President Barack Obama’s $3.7 billion emergency request to address the immigration crisis on the nation’s southern border.

Republicans demanded speedier deportations, which the White House initially had supported but left out of its proposal after complaints from immigrant advocates and some Democrats. On Thursday, the top House and Senate Democrats pointedly left the door open to them.

“It’s not a deal-breaker,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. “Let them have their face-saver. But let us have the resources to do what we have to do.” Her spokesman Drew Hammill later clarified that any changes “must ensure due process for these children.”

In the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said: “I’m not going to block anything. Let’s see what comes to the floor.”

But opposition arose late in the day from a key Democratic senator, suggesting battles ahead before any deal could be struck.

“I can assure you that I will fight tooth and nail changes in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act,” Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy said at a hearing on the situation, referring to the law Republicans want to change.

Noting that the arriving migrants include young girls trying to escape sex violence and gangs, Leahy said: “I’m not sure Americans all really feel we should immediately send them back.”

Reid and Pelosi made their comments as House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., both said they didn’t want to give Obama a “blank check” to deal with the crisis of tens of thousands of unaccompanied children arriving at the Texas border, many fleeing gangs and drawn by rumors they would be able to stay in the U.S. Boehner and McConnell indicated policy changes would be necessary to win their support.

“We want to make sure we actually get the right tools to help fix the problem,” McConnell said. Obama “needs to work with us to get the right policy into effect.”

The developments came as Obama’s Homeland Security secretary, Jeh Johnson, defended the emergency spending request at a hearing of the Senate Appropriations Committee. He said that without the money, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Patrol agencies would both run out of money in the next two months, and the Homeland Security Department “would need to divert significant funds from other critical programs just to maintain operations.”

At issue is a law approved in 2008. Passed to give protection to sex trafficking victims, it requires court hearings for migrant young people who arrive in this country from “noncontiguous” countries — anywhere other than Mexico or Canada.

Because of enormous backlogs in the immigration court system, the result in the current crisis is that kids streaming in from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala are released to relatives or others in the U.S. with notices to appear at long-distant court hearings that many of them never will attend.

Republicans want the government to have the authority to treat Central American kids the same way as kids from Mexico, who can be removed quickly unless they convince Border Patrol that they have a fear of return that merits additional screening.

“I think clearly we would probably want the language similar to what we have with Mexico,” Boehner said.

White House officials have said they support such changes and indicated last week that they would be offering them along with the emergency spending request. But immigration advocates objected strongly, saying children would be denied legal protections, and the White House has not yet made a formal proposal.

Asked Thursday about the issue, Johnson said he supported changing the law to treat children from Central American nations the same as those from Mexico.

“We want the flexibility in the current situation to have that discretion,” he said.

Advocates said they remained strongly opposed and expressed anger that after comprehensive immigration reform failed to advance in Congress this year, lawmakers may be headed toward a vote on deporting minors more quickly.

“They weren’t able to get immigration reform done in this Congress and this is going to be the only piece of immigration that gets done, a bill that says we’re going to deport children fleeing violence faster,” said Marielena Hincapie, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center. “If Democrats can’t stand up to this and be the party that’s protecting children and refugees, it’s a really sad day for the country.”

More than 57,000 unaccompanied children have arrived since October even as tens of thousands more have arrived traveling as families, mostly mothers with their children.

Many are trying to reunite with family members and to escape a spike in violence in their countries, but they also report hearing rumors that once here, they would be allowed to stay. Republicans blame Obama policies aimed at curbing deportations of immigrants brought into the country illegally as children for contributing to those rumors, something Obama administration officials have largely rejected.

The situation has complicated the already rancorous debate over remaking the nation’s immigration laws at a moment when Obama has declared legislative efforts to do so dead and announced plans to proceed on his own executive authority to change the flawed system where he can.

 

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

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Discussion | 7 comments

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  • Tax PayerJuly 11, 2014 - 5:35 am

    Obama, executive order sign it and start sending them all back. I know it is a law but you choose all the time to ignore others, why not this one? Oh yeah, your liberal friends would be unhappy with this as they are future voters. All Americans should be screaming "No more"!

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • rlw895July 11, 2014 - 9:09 am

    If you think this is about future voters, you are going to jump to all kinds of false conclusions. Take that one away and try again.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • rlw895July 11, 2014 - 8:55 am

    Why treat them the same as children from Mexico? Why not the same as children from Canada? Or Mexico or Canada. If I'm reading this article correctly, the process is the same for "contiguous countries."

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Rick WoodJuly 11, 2014 - 9:06 am

    "Due Process" is an American value that should be put on full display in this case. Let's not lose sight of that in our rush to judge. The whole world is watching.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • DanielJuly 11, 2014 - 1:27 pm

    This whole scenario with illegals openly crossing the border and the border patrol being their. 2nd coyote chauffeuring them to residential areas is surreal just like the last 5 1/2 years, it feels like a nightmare, is this really happening?

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • rlw895July 11, 2014 - 2:12 pm

    In Daniel-World it wouldn't, would it? But this is the United States.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • DanielJuly 11, 2014 - 4:48 pm

    RW it's all surreal, domestic drones, the NSA spying on all Americans and allies, the IRS political persecutions, completely open borders, foreigners with more rights and entitlements than U.S. Citizens and a President that spends all his time fund raising, golfing and partying.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
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