House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) said she isn't hopeful that immigration reform will pass after she visited a Border Patrol facility in Brownsville, Texas, on Saturday.
Pelosi and three other Democratic members of the House -- Filemon Vela and Ruben Hinojosa of Texas and Steven Horsford of Nevada –- also met with Border Patrol agents to discuss the influx of unaccompanied children coming across the border from Central America.
“The humanitarian crisis unfolding across our nation’s southern border demands Congress come together and find thoughtful, compassionate and bipartisan solutions,” Pelosi said at a televised news conference after the tour. “We must also work to address the root causes of the problem.”
Pelosi said a few days ago she was more optimistic about immigration reform, but said now Republican House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) “gives us no reason to be hopeful.”
An estimated 52,000 unaccompanied youths from Central America have been caught along the Southwest’s border with Mexico since October, almost double last year’s total. Of that, more than two-thirds made the crossing into the Rio Grande Valley near the southern tip of Texas.
Vela, a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, said the situation at the border is a three-pronged crisis. The first, he said, is an immigration reform crisis. The second is a logistical crisis. The third is a foreign policy crisis, he said.
“In my view, we have several crises that we must confront if we want to effectively address the issue of migration of thousands of unaccompanied minors from Central America entering the U.S. through the southern border,” Vela said.
Also on Saturday at the Texas Democratic Convention in Dallas, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins announced that city officials were preparing to open shelters for around 2,000 minors.
He said the plan is to have the children spend a few weeks in Dallas County until they can be placed with relatives who are elsewhere in the U.S. The federal government will be covering the costs.
“We can’t help all, but we can help some,” Jenkins said in his speech at the conference.
Hundreds of families will also be flown to Border Patrol stations in California in the coming days, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Others will be transferred within Texas to Laredo and El Paso.
“The movement will allow the U.S. Border Patrol in less congested areas to assist in processing family units from South Texas where we are seeing an influx of migrants crossing the border,” Michael Friel, a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said in a statement Friday night.
Also Saturday, Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) will take a border tour with the first lady of Honduras and that country's ambassador to the U.S. They are visiting a Border Patrol facility in McAllen and a shelter for immigrant youth recently opened at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio.
Pelosi said the U.S. needs to turn this crisis into an "opportunity to show who we are as Americans."
“The fact is these are children, children and families,” Pelosi said. “We have a moral responsibility to address this in a dignified way."
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Times staff writer Brian Bennett contributed to this report.