President Barack Obama plans to ask Congress Monday for more than $2 billion to address the numerous individuals entering the United States illegally.
Obama also plans to request for new powers to respond to unaccompanied immigrant children who are apprehended. If given the powers, the Homeland Security Department would have the authority to use “fast track” procedures when screening immigrant children and deporting them. There would also be tougher punishments for individuals who smuggle children into the U.S., according to the Associated Press.
Since October, more than 52,000 children have been apprehended while traveling in the U.S. illegally without their parents.
The specific way the government would spend the $2 billion is still unclear and will not be determined until after Congress returns from its holiday recess in a little more than a week.
At the border in South Texas, patrol guards have been struggling to respond to the increase in immigrants from Central America, including El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
Because the individuals come from Central America to the U.S., deporting them back to their homes is more complicated than if they had immigrated from Mexico. Obama has called the problems posed by the influx an “urgent humanitarian situation.”
Under the current law, unaccompanied children must be transferred to the Health and Human Services Department within 72 hours of being apprehended. Then they are brought to shelters and hopefully reunited with relatives before going to immigration court.
When visiting Brownsville, Texas, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said she does not think that Congress will pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill this year. Still, she said she thinks that the government should keep trying.
"We don't want our good nature abused by those who would misrepresent what's happening in the United States on the subject of immigration to affect how we deal with a refugee problem," she said.
"The fact is these are children – children and families," Pelosi added. "We have a moral responsibility to address this in a dignified way."
By the end of July, about 2,000 immigrant children travelling alone may be moved from overcrowded shelters to facilities in Dallas, said Clay Jenkins, a Dallas County judge.
"This is not a commentary on the immigration debate," he said. "This is about scared and lonely children who are trapped in not good conditions on the border, and what we can do in this county to be a part of the solution."
Source: Associated Press