The debate in Congress over how to handle the crisis at the Southwestern border appears certain to become more heated before any resolution is reached.
A bipartisan proposal from two Texas lawmakers that would speed up judicial reviews for migrant children, and probably their deportations, met with swift resistance from the top Democrat in the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), all but dooming the idea.
Also doomed is the White House’s $3.7-billion request for emergency funding, which Republicans say is too big and must include policy changes to stem the flow of 57,000 unaccompanied youths who have been apprehended at the border since October.
Finding common ground has been difficult. Democrats in both the House and Senate are extremely reluctant to yield to hasten the removal of the Central American children by changing a 2008 anti-trafficking law, which gives children from all nations but Mexico and Canada the right to a hearing before deportation. Many of the children say they are fleeing violence.
The Obama administration has suggested changing the law, and Republicans have made changing it a key condition to approving any emergency funding. That extra funding, officials say, is needed before the accounts of the Homeland Security and Health and Human Services departments run dry by mid-August.
Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, which would handle the White House’s $3.7-billion request, said there was “broad agreement” on changing the law. Rogers is scrubbing the departments' books to see if money could be shifted from other accounts.
House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) has suggested dispatching National Guard troops to the border, and a House GOP working group is expected to make its recommendations this week after several lawmakers recently visited Central America.
But any funding bill is bound to hit political hurdles in the House, where GOP budget hawks have resisted new spending unless it is offset by cuts elsewhere. That leaves Senate Democrats wary of trying to appease Republican demands for policy changes unless the House is guaranteed to approve the money.
The debate also has launched a fresh round of finger-pointing over who is to blame for the border crisis. Republicans argue that White House policies have encouraged families to send their children on the treacherous journey north, while Democrats like Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont say that if House Republicans had acted on the Senate’s bipartisan immigration reform bill, the border crisis would not be so severe.
“They want to talk about everything that should be done, but they’re unwilling to vote on anything. Vote yes or no,” Leahy said Tuesday. “It’s really a coward’s way out.”
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