House, Senate Advance Border Proposals 07/24 06:13
WASHINGTON (AP) --- At an impasse on immigration, House Republicans and
Senate Democrats advanced competing proposals Wednesday for dealing with tens
of thousands of young migrants showing up at the southern border. Each side
quickly ruled the other's approach unacceptable, leaving any solution unclear
with Congress' annual August recess looming.
Unless Democrats capitulate, "We're going to be at an impasse and we will
have earned even greater disdain from the American people than we already
have," Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said.
But Republicans were having difficulty agreeing even among themselves.
At a morning meeting of House Republicans, Speaker John Boehner urged action
to address the border crisis, reminding GOP lawmakers that the Border Patrol
and other agencies would be running out of money in coming months because of
the heavy influx of unaccompanied minors and families at the border.
The Obama administration is assessing the need for sending National Guard
troops to the border. A Pentagon and Homeland Security team is at the Rio
Grande Valley Border Patrol Sector.
Some House Republicans have called for a surge of troops to help enforce
border security, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry said this week he will send 1,000
National Guard troops to the border.
A working group appointed by Boehner rolled out proposals including sending
in the National Guard and changing a 2008 trafficking victims law to allow
Central American children to be turned around quickly at the border and sent
back home. Lawmakers announced plans to chop President Barack Obama's $3.7
billion emergency spending request for the border crisis down to $1.5 billion.
But as they left the meeting in the basement of the Capitol, some of the
more conservative members of the GOP caucus made clear they were unconvinced.
"If Republicans move forward on this, we're now jumping right in the middle
of President Obama's nightmare and making it ours," said Rep. John Fleming,
R-La. Fleming said he worried that any House-passed bill "will be turned on its
head" by the Senate "and actually make the problem even worse."
Fleming said Boehner told Republicans he was undecided about bringing the
plan to the floor because he didn't know whether there were enough votes to
In his comments to reporters after the meeting, Boehner was noncommittal.
"This discussion with our members is going to continue, but we've not made
any decisions," he said. "I'd like to act. We've got a humanitarian crisis on
the border that has to be dealt with."
The path forward was not much clearer in the Senate, where Appropriations
Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., introduced legislation paring
Obama's spending request back to $2.7 billion for more immigration judges,
detention facilities and other resources.
"We cannot turn our backs on these children," Mikulski said on the Senate
But Mikulski said she was omitting from her legislation any changes to the
2008 trafficking victims law, which Republicans say has contributed to the
crisis by allowing Central American youths to stay in this country indefinitely
while awaiting far-off court dates.
"We don't want a backdoor version of bad immigration reform," Mikulski said.
"This bill is only a money bill. It does not include immigration legislation."
Republicans continued to demand changes to the 2008 law as the price for
approving any money for the crisis, and Republican senators made clear they
would not lend their votes without those provisions. "A fundamental of any
agreement is the repeal of the 2008 law," McCain said.
Without GOP support it wasn't clear the Senate would be able to advance
Mikulski's bill, and it wasn't evident whether a compromise could emerge.
White House officials and some Democrats were initially open to changing the
2008 law, but there has been a backlash from immigration advocates who say kids
would be sent back to their deaths at the hands of vicious gangs in parts of
Central America. Now most Democrats say they are strongly opposed.
"I'm willing to compromise on things, but it depends on what," Sen. Tom
Harkin, D-Iowa, said. "If they really want to take these kids and ship them
back in five days without giving them the right to at least have a decent right
to claim asylum, no, I'm not going to change on that."
Boehner's working group, chaired by Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas, would allow
Central American youths to be treated the same as those from Mexico, who can be
turned around quickly at the border unless they can convince Border Patrol
agents that they merit more extensive screening. Other proposals include
speeding up court hearings and boosting border security.
"Without trying to fix the problem I don't know how we actually are in a
position to give the president any more money," Boehner said. "What the
president's asking for is a blank check."
Democrats and immigration advocates criticized Granger's proposals as overly
harsh, but conservatives on and off Capitol Hill said they didn't go far enough.
Later in the day Boehner sent a letter to Obama asking him to declare his
support for changing the 2008 law, pointing to mixed signals from the White
House on the issue.
More than 57,000 minors have arrived since October, mostly from El Salvador,
Honduras and Guatemala, and tens of thousands of families have arrived, too.
Polls suggest the public is paying attention and demanding a solution, but
lawmakers leave Washington at the end of next week for a five-week recess.