The Ottumwa Courier

AP National

July 15, 2014

Bill would speed removals of Central American kids

WASHINGTON (AP) — Two Texas lawmakers announced legislation Monday to speed removals of tens of thousands of Central American kids from the U.S.-Mexico border, as Washington searched for a solution to the growing crisis.

The bill by Sen. John Cornyn, a Republican, and Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Democrat, would allow U.S. Border Patrol agents to turn many of the kids around quickly at the border. Under current law, the youths stay here while awaiting an eventual hearing in the backlogged immigration court system, something that can keep them in this country for years.

Of more than 57,000 unaccompanied minors who've arrived at the border since October, only 1,254 had been returned home as of the end of June, according to a law enforcement official who spoke anonymously to discuss confidential data.

"The border region in Texas has been overwhelmed over the past few months by a deluge of undocumented immigrants from Central America," Cuellar said in a statement. "Today's legislation strengthens current law protecting unaccompanied children and responds to the crisis."

The bill comes as the White House is trying to get Congress to sign off on a $3.7 billion emergency spending request to deal with the situation at the border by adding more immigration judges and detention facilities, among other steps.

Republicans have made clear they won't agree to such spending without policy changes along the lines of what Cornyn and Cuellar are seeking, and the White House has indicated support for some such changes. But immigrant advocacy groups and key Senate Democrats are opposed, making it unclear if a deal can be struck in the three weeks that remain before Congress leaves Washington for its annual August recess.

Administration officials were to travel to Capitol Hill on Wednesday to brief senators on the situation, and House members were to hear from lawmakers who traveled to Central America over the weekend as part of a working group convened by Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus, which strongly opposes legal changes to return kids more quickly to dangerous and unstable situations, announced a meeting with President Barack Obama over the crisis.

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