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theodore M I R A L D I mpa ... editor, publisher, writer
Wednesday, July 23, 2014
House task force to recommend National Guard on border, faster deportations
House Republicans will call Wednesday for decisive action to end the border crisis, proposing a deployment of National Guard troops and accelerated deportation hearings for unaccompanied children inundating the U.S., said a Capitol Hill aide familiar with the plan.
The proposals from a task force will aim to fix the most urgent problems quickly, “stemming the flow of [unaccompanied alien children] and securing the border right now,” the Republican aide said. “This is about solutions right now.”
Several of the recommendations focus on expediting the immigration hearing process for the unaccompanied alien children. Otherwise, most of them could stay in the U.S. for months or years before facing immigration judges, if they show up for their hearings.
“Having this [immigration hearing] process take one to five years is unacceptable,” said the aide, adding that the proposed measures would shorten the process to “within a week.”
The plans call for sheltering the children and conducting immigration hearings closer to where they are apprehended near the border in Texas and Arizona. More facilities would be set up and more hearing judges would be sent to the border region.
Republicans close to the task force said they were bracing for criticism from Democrats and immigration rights advocates who would accuse them of “militarizing” the border. But they remained committed to sending help to U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents, who are overwhelmed by waves of children and families crossing the border.
The White House has frowned on proposals to deploy the National Guard, including Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s announcement Monday that he was sending 1,000 National Guard troops to his state’s border with Mexico.
In 2006, President Bush sent 6,000 National Guard troops to the border to crack down on illegal immigration.
Under pressure from governors in Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas, President Obama extended the deployment and sent more National Guard troops in 2010. By the end of that year, however, he ordered the troops to withdraw.
In a move to further enhance border enforcement, the task force will propose lifting restrictions that prevent police and border agents from conducting operations on some federal land.
Border agents operating on federal land must comply with a slew of laws, including the National Environmental Policy Act, the Wilderness Act, and the Endangered Species Act.
They also have to obtain permission or permits from federal land management agencies before undertaking operations such as maintaining roads or installing surveillance equipment.
The requirements have been blamed for creating vast “black spots” along the border that drug gangs and human traffickers exploit.
The policy measures recommended by the task force, which was led by Rep. Kay Granger, Texas Republican, will be combined with an emergency spending bill that the House Appropriations Committee plans to offer as an alternative to Mr. Obama’s $3.7 billion request to address the crisis.
House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, set up the task force after rejecting Mr. Obama’s $3.7 billion request, which was widely criticized as excessive and has no chance of surviving intact.
Senate Democrats also are preparing to slash Mr. Obama’s spending request.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara A. Mikulski, Maryland Democrat, is scheduled to release an alternative package Wednesday that would trim $1 billion from Mr. Obama’s request. It also would shift $225 million to Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system for its battle again Hamas militants in Gaza and $615 million to Western states responding to wildfires.
Lawmakers must finalize the bills and reconcile any differences between the chambers’ versions in less than two weeks, when Congress is scheduled to adjourn for its August recess.
The House task force’s emphasis on border security measures should help win support among conservatives, who have demanded that the administration seal the border before addressing other immigration issues.
The Obama administration is looking for facilities to shelter the children, who have been transported as far as Chicago and Virginia, while officials attempt to reunite them with relatives in the United States.
“Republicans have made clear that we support efforts to take care of these children, return them safely to families in their home countries and secure the border,” Mr. Boehner said Tuesday as he called on the president seek a bipartisan solution.
“The lack of leadership from this White House, and President Obama’s refusal to stand up to critics in his own political party, are jeopardizing our ability to find common ground and help the kids who are caught in the middle of this crisis,” he said.
Revisiting a 2008 law
The task force will recommend changing a 2008 law that delays immigration hearings for children from Central America, which is home to most of the 57,000 unaccompanied children who have arrived illegally so far this year.
The 2008 law, known as the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, was intended to protect Central American children from human trafficking, but critics say it has become a foothold and incentive for Central American children to reach the U.S.
At least 90,000 children will be caught this year and more than 140,000 next year, according to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection memo.
Until recently, about 8,000 unaccompanied children per year attempted to cross the border.
Mr. Obama and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, previously supported changing the law but reversed their positions after vocal opposition from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
The Republican recommendations, particularly changes to a 2008 law that delays deportations of children from Central America, will face stiff resistance from the White House and congressional Democrats.
Anticipating proposals to change the 2008 law, Mrs. Pelosi’s spokesman wrote a blog post Tuesday that accused Republicans of “talking out of both sides of their mouth” about helping the children.
“The GOP will bring eight human trafficking suspension bills to the floor — mostly good legislation, but with little or no direct impact on the refugees and children at our borders,” Drew Hammill wrote. “And they will use those bills as cover for their real effort to undermine critical protections afforded to women and children in the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) of 2008, a bipartisan bill signed by President George W. Bush.”