After receiving criticism that the plan to send unaccompanied minors back to their home countries quicker than the norm was “too harsh,” President Obama is stepping back from the planned changes.
In the recent weeks, there has been a surge of unaccompanied minors attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border. The circumstances are so troubling that the president has labeled the situation a “humanitarian crisis.” Many of these children are coming from countries in Central America that are known for violence. Current U.S. law requires that an immigration hearing be held before deporting a child back to Central American countries.
According to unnamed congressional aides, President Obama planned to seek more than $2 billion in emergency spending from Congress in order to deal with the current situation at the border. When making the formal request, there will be no mention of “specific legislative changes that the White House has indicated it plans to seek.” At this time, the president's request for funding will be focused on “immigration judges, detention facilities, legal aid and other items that could address the situation at the border.”
However, officials from the White House have stated that they must still look into other avenues in order to return these children as quickly as possible. The majority of these minors are coming from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. Although the president will be looking for alternative methods, this most recent request of money would be kept separate from those endeavors. By assuring officials that the money would be kept separate, there is likely a better chance that the request for emergency funds would be approved by Congress.
When the White House first commented on its desire to “quickly return the minors back home,” many immigration advocates took this to mean that the children's right to a hearing before an immigration judge would be violated. Advocates worried that the minors would instead have an initial screening with a Border Patrol agent. This could “take away their right to counsel, right to a proper screening. It would undermine completely due process,” said Leslie Holman, president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.
Advocacy groups quickly challenged the president's idea with more than 200 groups signing a letter asking the President Obama to not implement the change. In a statement, the White House said that it wants to “speed up the processing of Central American border crossers without taking away their due process.” Josh Earnest, the White House Press Secretary said that the president understands the importance to protect an individual's due process rights as well as having efficient U.S. immigration enforcement policies.
Since October of last year, there have been over 50,000 unaccompanied minors who have been apprehended trying to cross the border into the United States. Many Republicans in Washington D.C. have argued that is the Obama administration's fault for this situation.
The president plans to visit Texas to raise money for Democratic congressional candidates. He has no plans to visit Border Patrol facilities during his trip.