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White House: $3.7 billion needed for border security surge

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White House: $3.7 billion needed for border security surge

  • Detained children sleep in a holding cell at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection processing facility last monthin Brownsville, Texas.
    AP Photo/Eric Gay, PoolDetained children sleep in a holding cell at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection processing facility last monthin Brownsville, Texas.

The White House requested $3.7 billion from Congress on Tuesday to support a "sustained border security surge" to deal with thousands of unaccompanied minors coming into the United States through the Rio Grande Valley. 

The funding would cover domestic enforcement including increased airborne surveillance, transportation costs, repatriation and reintegration programs in Central America, as well as additional immigration judges, prosecutors and litigation attorney to "ensure cases are processed fairly and as quickly as possible."

U.S. Rep. Ron Barber, distancing himself from the administration's border record, said he looks "forward to hearing how (Obama) proposes to allocate the funds, specifically the $433 million he wants for Customs and Border Protection."

"It is unacceptable that it has taken a massive humanitarian crisis in which tens of thousands of children have entered our country illegally to get the president and Washington to take notice and act," Barber said in a late afternoon press release.

While the spike in unaccompanied minors traveling into Texas has created what President Obama called a "humanitarian crisis," the program would include adults traveling with children, including those dropped off at Greyhound bus stations in Phoenix and Tucson.

The request will also include funding for programs to address the root causes of migration, the letter said, as well as a public information campaign. 

The letter did not include a request to change current U.S. law limiting deportation proceedings for unaccompanied minors.

Federal officials have pushed hard to combat "misconceptions" about U.S. immigration policy. In late June, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson penned a letter for publication in several Spanish-language newspapers that there were no "permisos" available to the children coming into the country this summer. 

Johnson repeated this argument during his visit to the Nogales Border Patrol station on June 23.

"Immigration reform is for those who have been in the country since 2011. The earned citizenship path is not available. I continue to stress that," said Johnson. 

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said on Monday that many of the kids were unlikely to receive relief through immigration courts.

“It’s unlikely that most of the kids who go through this process will qualify for humanitarian relief, which is to say that most of them will not have a legal basis will not be found, through that court process, to have a legal basis to remain in this country,” Earnest said. "If they don't qualify for humanitarian relief, they will be sent back." 

For the last nine months, more than 70 percent of the 52,000 unaccompanied minors apprehended by U.S. Border Patrol have funneled through the Rio Grande Valley, nearly doubling the traffic from the year before.

Additionally, more than three-quarters are from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, further complicating the ability for Border Patrol and U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement to immediately deport them because of U.S. law.

Tucson Sector has apprehended more than 6,600 children in the same time period, however, that represents a slight drop from last year, according to statistics from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

"Much of the attention has been focused on the Rio Grande Valley, where most of these individuals entered the country. But the crisis has seriously impacted Southern Arizona, where thousands of children and others have been transported," Barber said. The Tucson Democrat said that "Those who entered our country illegally must be returned to their home countries. And Arizona must not bear any of the costs of this failure of Washington."

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