The Ottumwa Courier

AP National

July 14, 2014

Obama may hold fix to flood of immigrant kids

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama can take action to relieve much of the crisis caused by tens of thousands of unaccompanied children crossing the southern U.S. border without waiting for what is likely to be a contentious and lengthy Congressional battle, say two key lawmakers, one Democrat and the other, Republican.

At issue is a provision in a 2008 human trafficking law that puts the fate of young immigrants from countries that don't border the United States in the hands of immigration judges. The Obama administration has expressed some interest in asking Congress to change the law to give the administration more leeway in dealing with the crisis. It can take years for cases to make their way through immigration courts.

But Rep. Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said Sunday that wholesale changes by Congress may not be necessary and that Obama has the authority to return the children to their native countries. Since October, more than 57,000 children, mostly from Honduras, El Salvador or Guatemala, have crossed the Mexican border without their parents.

Obama "has tools in his toolbox" to solve quickly what most officials say has become a humanitarian crisis and to deter more children from coming to the U.S., Rogers said.

"We can safely get them home," Rogers said on NBC's "Meet the Press." He said, "And that's where the president needs to start. So he needs to re-engage, get folks who are doing administrative work on the border. They need to make sure they send a very clear signal."

Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the author of the provision in the human trafficking law, said a change in regulations, not the law, could speed the children's return.

The law already allows the departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services to write regulations to deal with "exceptional circumstances" that would allow officials to return the children more quickly to their home countries, Feinstein said.

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