White House seeks emergency funds to counter border surge

The migrants are pictured back atop the northbound freight train as it starts to rain outside Reforma de Pineda

President Barack Obama is asking Congress for $3.7 billion in emergency funds to stem the surge in children and families from Central America illegally crossing the U.S. border, with most of the money to be spent on detention facilities to hold the migrants.

The request, which was detailed Tuesday by White House officials, represents the Obama administration’s most aggressive effort to address what the president has called an “urgent humanitarian challenge.”

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The White House’s proposal puts the president in an awkward position—asking for more staff and detention facilities to crack down on illegal crossings when he had hoped to sign a liberalization of immigration law.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R., Ky.) said his committee would examine the request. He didn’t indicate whether he supports the proposal but said: “Plainly, the situation for many of these unaccompanied children is extremely dire, and the United States has both a security and a moral obligation to help solve the crisis at hand.”

The bulk of the money requested, $1.8 billion, would go to the Department of Health and Human Services, which is charged with housing children who cross the border alone until officials can place them with sponsors, usually family living in the U.S. Under U.S. law, these children stay with their sponsors while their deportation proceedings unfold.

The administration is also asking for $879 million to detain and prosecute adults traveling with children. Today, the U.S. only has one detention facility—in Pennsylvania—suitable for families, and it can hold fewer than 100 people. As a result, virtually all adults traveling with children are released and told to report to immigration court later.

Minors have streamed across the border in record numbers in recent months, with more than 52,000 children arriving since the fiscal year began in October…

Related story: White House says most children at border to be sent home: (Reuters) – White House spokesman Josh Earnest said most of the border-crossers would not qualify to stay in the United States.

Those who possibly could get asylum are children who have been victims of domestic abuse. Minors who fled because of gang-related violence could have a harder time qualifying, according to immigration experts…

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I have my doubts that most of them will be returned. Why not just turn them back at the border?

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