President Obama asks Congress for $3.7 billion to address illegal immigration

(CNN) — President Barack Obama cares, the White House insisted Tuesday in asking Congress for $3.7 billion in emergency funds to better respond to the flood of immigrants illegally crossing the border into Texas.

No he doesn’t, say Republicans who note Obama doesn’t plan to visit the border area when he travels to Texas — the epicenter of the immigrant influx — on Wednesday for a trip that includes a meeting with Gov. Rick Perry.

Amid the political sniping, many of the tens of thousands of young Hispanic immigrants who have illegally crossed the border into Texas this year remain in limbo while waiting to be processed and possibly sent back to their home countries.

The surge of undocumented youths from Central America has overwhelmed federal facilities and revived the debate over an immigration policy overhaul, one of the most partisan issues in the already overheated political climate of an election year.

U.S. authorities estimate that between 60,000 to 80,000 children without parents will cross the border this year in what the White House is calling an “immediate humanitarian crisis.”

Obama administration officials blame the immigrant influx on dire conditions in countries such as Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador that cause people to send their children on dangerous journeys to the United States with smugglers who falsely promise the kids won’t get deported.

Critics, however, say the administration invited the problem by halting deportations of some young immigrants who came to the country illegally in past years.

Funding request

Obama’s emergency funding request is just over 10% of the $30 billion in proposed border security funding included in the Senate-passed immigration reform bill that House Republican leaders have stalled.

A breakdown of the request, which requires approval from the deeply divided Congress, shows a broad approach by the administration to a problem that the critics say should have been anticipated.

It seeks $1.6 billion for the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice to bolster customs and border efforts as well as cracking down on smugglers, and $300 million for the State Department to help Mexico and Central American governments counter what officials called “misinformation” by smugglers about what immigrants will face on the journey to the U.S. border and once they arrive.

A main goal is to speed up the processing of arriving young immigrants to send back those who lack legal status. For most, the likely outcome will be a return home, White House officials told reporters on a conference call.

Obama’s funding request also seeks $1.8 billion for the Department of Health and Human Services to provide appropriate care for unaccompanied children crossing the border.

The officials said that money would allow the government to meet its legal and moral obligations for such youngsters now being crammed in overcrowded facilities in several states while awaiting processing.

On Tuesday, the Pentagon said it was processing requests from HHS to house more minors and Defense Department spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said the matter was still under discussion. But U.S. officials told CNN’s Barbara Starr the requests cover about 5,000 new beds at military facilities. There currently is space for about 3,600 children.

The current arrangement is to use military facilities for up to 120 days. Kirby wouldn’t speculate whether the time frame would be extended, although he said it’s something that would be discussed.

“Urgent situation”

In addition, the emergency funding request for the rest of fiscal year 2014, which ends on September 30, seeks an additional $615 million to ensure necessary money to fight wildfires — an issue separate from the immigration matter.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the “urgent situation” that the emergency appropriation request would address should usurp any talk of making budget cuts elsewhere to offset the cost.

“With an emergency request like this, traditionally Congress has not sought to bog down that process in a search for offsets,” he told reporters on Tuesday.

The administration also will seek more leeway under existing law to speed up the processing of the undocumented newcomers who are overcrowding holding facilities and sparking protests in communities intended as temporary destinations.

In particular, it wants Congress to make it easier for the Department of Homeland Security to deport new immigrants who lack legal standing to remain in the country, which would ease a growing backlog of cases resulting from the influx, Earnest said.

“What we are seeing along the Southwest border is a spike in illegal migration from a handful of Central American countries,” he added. “And what we would like is for the secretary of homeland security to exercise some greater discretion after the due process rights of those individuals has been acknowledged and respected.”

Partisan divide

It was unclear how much cooperation Obama would get from congressional Republicans. A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner said the request would be considered, but noted it lacked a component sought by the Republican leader.

“The speaker still supports deploying the National Guard to provide humanitarian support in the affected areas – which this proposal does not address,” said Michael Steel.

On the Senate side, Republicans argued for changing a 2008 law signed by GOP President George W. Bush that requires deportation hearings before sending back children from non-bordering countries.

They blame the process for a backlog created by the surge in unaccompanied minors from Central America entering the United States illegally from Mexico.

“I don’t think we can solve the problem unless we revisit” the law, said conservative Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas.

Democrats, however, want to keep the law intact to ensure that any children who deserve asylum get due process in the form of a full hearing.

“I’m not inclined to support any policy change that ultimately undermines existing law and would violate the right of someone who is actually a legitimate refugee,” said Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey, a Democrat of Cuban descent who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “Each child should be able to make their case as to why they qualify. Many will be sent back but others will qualify.”

No border visit

Obama has come under criticism from Republicans and some Democrats for not planning to visit the border area during his Texas trip, which will include a Democratic Party fundraising event.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a possible GOP presidential nominee in 2016, called the situation similar to the much-disparaged federal response to Hurricane Katrina by the Bush administration.

“For him to go to Texas and spend two days shaking down donors and never even getting near the border mess he helped create would be like flying into New Orleans in the highest waters of Katrina to eat Creole cooking, but never getting near the 9th Ward, the Superdome, or the Convention Center where thousands languished in squalor,” Huckabee said.

Meanwhile, Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas questioned if the border problem would harm the President in the same way the Katrina response tarnished his predecessor, telling Fox News: “I hope this does not become Obama’s ‘Katrina moment.'”

The White House officials on Tuesday’s conference call repeatedly emphasized that Obama regarded the immigration crisis as “an urgent humanitarian situation.”

Political squabble

Obama’s trip to Texas set off a political squabble, with Perry refusing to greet the President at the airport and instead calling for a meeting to discuss the immigration crisis.

In response, Obama invited Perry to a meeting in Dallas with faith leaders and local officials, according to a letter written by senior adviser Valerie Jarrett.

Perry, who is seeking to re-establish his national credentials after a disastrous bid for the GOP presidential nomination in 2012, said Tuesday he looked forward to meeting with Obama.

Previously, Perry has said he “readily” welcomes any federal emergency funds, but also has asked that Texas be reimbursed for more than $500 million the state has spent on border security over the past decade.

Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson said Sunday the administration will take steps to fix the nation’s broken immigration system, even without the help of Congress.

That’s the same message Obama has given in response to the refusal by House Republicans to take up a Senate-passed immigration reform bill.

TM & © 2014 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

12 comments

  • Juan

    Don’t give the BUM any more money! Start Impeachment proceedings immediately!! Obumma needs to be in Federal Prison!

  • TruthLivesHere

    Why is the Imperial Highness even bothering to ask Congress for the money? Mr. Executive Order, aka “I’ve got a pen and a phone” will get the money if he wants it. Obama couldn’t care less about this situation, it’s all posturing. Barry O, Harry Reid, Igor Pelosi, et al, are actually rejoicing in this turmoil.

    • Jeanne

      He always asks but republicans in congress always turn their backs and stonewalls. Boehner has already said that congress had no intention of doing anything about immigration this year despite all their griping. Anything to obstruct. So now we have thousands of refugee children from Honduras and Guatemala to deal with. Is congress going to turn away from them too ? Probably, trying to play the blame game the whole time…As far as presidents who occasionally made decisions on their own we have to look no further back than W Bush who I remember standing up there in front of all and with an angry look on his face stated “I’m the decider and I’m going to decide”!” In fact it was Bush’s legislation in 2008 passed to protect children brought here from other countries that these kids are using to try to get here. Actually a humane thing to do. Unnreasoning hatred is terribly unattractive, by the way., not very Christian either.

    • Say What

      Actually, President Obama has used executive orders fewer times than any modern President. You really need to get your information from somewhere other than Faux News!

      • Candi Cane

        Unclear on the concept dude. It’s not about the quantity of executive, but the substance. His (obama) EO’s go too far and rise to the level of making law rather than making minor regulatory changes. Like exempting all of Congress, Unions, businesses from ACA in contravention of the enacted law, and the promises that were made.

  • WhatdidBushdo?

    What did Bush do about immigration? Not a thing, 8 yrs in office and nothing was done about immigration. Rick Perry thumbs his nose at the White house when it comes to gun laws and abortion. What has Rick Perry done about immigration for his state? Nothing that’s what.

    • Candi Cane

      blah blah balh……bush bush bush……

      blah blah blah bush bush bush

      blah blah blah bush bush bush.

      your record is stuck. time to find a new mantra

  • WhatdidBushdo?

    You tell me How Obama stakes up against the rest of the Presidents on issuing executive orders. He has a long way to go before he catches up with Bush and Reagan!
    Barack Obama – 144 (so far)
    George W. Bush – 291
    Clinton – 364
    George Bush – 166
    Reagan – 381
    Carter – 320
    Ford – 169
    Nixon – 346
    Johnson – 325
    Kennedy – 214
    Eisenhower – 484
    Truman – 907
    Franklin D. Roosevelt – 3,522
    Hoover – 968
    Coolidge – 1,203
    Harding – 522
    Wilson – 1,803
    Taft – 724
    Theodore Roosevelt – 1,081
    McKinley – 185
    Cleveland II – 140
    Harrison – 143
    Cleveland I – 113
    Arthur – 96
    Garfield – 6
    Hayes – 92
    Grant – 217
    Andrew Johnson – 79
    Lincoln – 48
    Buchanan – 16
    Pierce – 35
    Fillmore – 12
    Taylor – 5
    Polk – 18
    Tyler – 17
    Harrison – 0
    van Buren – 10
    Jackson – 12
    Adams – 3
    Monroe – 1
    Madison – 1
    Jefferson – 4
    Adams – 1
    Washington – 8

  • Wes

    obuma created the situation by not deporting the last four years. This is on him and him alone, enough with Bush already. He won’t even go to the border to see for himself, but yet he just played his 180th golf game since being in office. The American people should be outraged at his arrogance and imperial attitude., I know I am.

    • Say What

      Wes, it is not blaming if the facts support the claim! The fact is, it was President Bush that signed legislation that requires a different (lengthier) process for people coming from South American countries. These children and families are coming, not from Mexico as many of the crazies say in their protests, but from South American countries (Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador). They are being processes according to the Bush legislation. This is just another example of President Obama trying to deal with something done by President Bush!!

      • Cabriolet

        Hey genius. El Salvador,Honduras and Guatemala are not in South America, they are in Central America. Learn something before you offer your ignorant observation.

  • Wes

    really say waht, really. I’ll bet if obama committed a felony on live video you would say Bush altered the video somehow, move on and quit excusing the worst president since WWII. He has committed 25 impeachable offences, but since he is a black man, it would be racist to say anything. The one thing republicans do better than democrats is, the clean up their own house! Bush was a big spender, wrong on immigration and he was nailed by the republican party for both, something you will never see from the dems, I’m sick of the blaming and I take no resoncibility attitude because I didn’t know about it attitude. . Move on and hold the ^%%$@#$@ accountable for once if you ever wish to gain any respect from the people.

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