Obama seeks cash for migrant flood
Washington – President Barack Obama will seek more than US$2 billion (NZ$2.28b) to respond to the flood of immigrants illegally entering the US through the Rio Grande Valley area of Texas and ask for new powers to deal with returning immigrant children apprehended while travelling without their parents, a White House official said.
With Obama looking to Congress for help with what he has called an ‘‘urgent humanitarian situation’’, House of Representatives Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi visited a Border Patrol facility in Texas that held unaccompanied children. More than 52,000 unaccompanied children, most from Central America, have been apprehended entering the US illegally since October.
‘‘The fact is these are children – children and families,’’ Pelosi said. ‘‘We have a moral responsibility to address this in a dignified way.’’
Obama plans to make the requests of Congress in a letter to be sent tomorrow, the White House official said. Details of the emergency appropriation, including the exact amount and how it will be spent, will come after lawmakers return from their holiday recess on July 7, said the official, who was not authorised to speak by name and discussed the requests on condition of anonymity.
Obama will also ask that the Department of Homeland Security be granted authority to apply ‘‘fast track’’ procedures to the screening and deportation of all immigrant children travelling without their parents and that stricter penalties for those who smuggle children across the border, the official said.
Pelosi said she holds little hope that Congress will pass comprehensive immigration reform this year but that politics should be set aside. She did not elaborate on what had dampened her optimism in this midterm election year. Speaker of the House John Boehner’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Border Patrol in south Texas has been overwhelmed for several months by an influx of unaccompanied children and parents travelling with young children from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. Unlike Mexican immigrants arrested after entering the US illegally, those from Central America cannot be as easily returned to their countries.
Helping hand: President Barack Obama says the flood of illegal immigrants through the Rio Grande Valley area is an ‘‘urgent humanitarian situation.’’