Photo: Immigration reform
House Republicans passed two measures to address the influx of unaccompanied child migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, even though the bills will not have sufficient support in the Democratic-led Senate.
The largely symbolic measures were passed late Friday, on what was to have been the first day of a five-week summer recess, thanks to support from conservative Tea Party Republicans, who had refused to back an earlier bill Thursday crafted by more moderate House GOP members.
The first bill, which was passed with a vote of 223-189, approved just under $700 million in emergency spending to bolster border security and provide some aid to the unaccompanied child migrants.
It also would expedite the deportation of Central American children, who under a 2008 law cannot - unlike minors from contiguous contries (Mexico and Canada) - be immediately shipped back to their home countries.
That figure was far less than the $3.7 billion Obama requested last month to deal with the crisis at the border.
The Senate introduced a bill this week that cut that funding request to $2.7 billion, but it stalled in a procedural vote just before the start of the recess.
Senate Republicans objected to the bill because it did not include changes to current law to speed up the deportation of Central American minors.
The House also passed a second bill late Friday - by a vote of 216-192 - that would block the renewal of the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
The first House bill was passed after Tea Party Republicans were given assurances that the measure to scrap DACA would also be put to a vote on Friday. In both cases, nearly all the votes in favor were cast by Republican lawmakers.
Established two years ago by executive order, DACA deferred the deportation of hundreds of thousands of undocumented minors who have been raised in the United States.
Republicans say that policy encourages minors to make the dangerous trek to the United States because they believe they will be able to stay if they can cross the border, but the Obama administration says there is no link between DACA and the current border crisis.
Obama slammed the measures passed in the House as “extreme and unworkable” and said he would have no other choice but to move funds from other agencies to tackle the border problem.
An estimated 60,000 unaccompanied minors from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador have crossed into the United States over the past 10 months, a figure experts say could climb to 100,000 by year’s end.
Most of the unaccompanied Central American minors who illegally enter the United States across the southern border are fleeing violence in their homelands, Elizabeth Kennedy, a joint doctoral student at the University of California, Santa Barbara and San Diego State University who received a Fulbright U.S. Student Program grant to carry out a study in El Salvador, told Efe in late June.
“The migration of children from El Salvador is due to the violence of the Mara Salvatrucha and Mara 18 (gangs). It’s the same in Honduras, but in that country there are other elements of pressure, which are a life of poverty, drug cartels and other criminal groups,” the researcher said
“In Guatemala, besides street gangs and cartels, children emigrate because of the extreme poverty and so much domestic violence. Most Guatemalan minors who emigrate are low-income Indians from rural areas who are discriminated against,” she said.