Congress

Some Conservatives Support Obama's $3.7 Billion Immigration Aid Request


Two young girls watch a World Cup soccer match from their holding area at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Nogales Placement Center in Nogales, Arizona

Photograph by Ross D. Franklin

Two young girls watch a World Cup soccer match from their holding area at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Nogales Placement Center in Nogales, Arizona

In the absence of a comprehensive immigration reform bill, President Obama has asked Congress to authorize $3.7 billion to deal with the surge in unaccompanied minor migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. The White House says the cash is needed for the Justice Department to hire judges to hasten hearings for the migrant children; for the Department of Health and Human Services to provide medical attention and refugee services; and for the Department of Homeland Security to send border drones, pay border agents overtime, and detain and deport more immigrants.

Perhaps surprisingly, some Republicans appear to be entertaining the request. Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, told Politico that both the Appropriations Committee and a border-crisis working group headed by Representative Kay Granger (R-Tex.) “will review the White House proposal.” Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers of Kentucky described the situation at the border as “extremely dire,” and added, “the United States has both a security and a moral obligation to help solve the crisis at hand.”

The president’s appeal even drew some support from immigration hardliners outside Congress. Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies for the conservative Center for Immigration Studies, says that while she’d “quibble” with the composition of the funding request, Republicans should pass it anyway, because “clearly the federal government needs more resources to clean up this mess.”

Others, however, stuck to the party line. “I don’t think Congress is likely to write the president a $3.7 billion check without some assurance that the money’s going to go not to simply facilitate the flow in a more orderly manner, but to actually interrupt and reverse the flow, and stop people from coming in [and] to send people back that have come into the country illegally,” says Representative Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a deputy whip and close Boehner ally. Some Republicans have also suggested, contrary to the White House’s call for emergency spending designation, that the $3.7 billion be offset with cuts elsewhere; Alabama’s Senator Richard Shelby, the ranking Republican on the Appropriations Committee in the Democratic-controlled Senate, offered a specific plan: “It ought to be offset from Obamacare.”

Eidelson is a reporter for Bloomberg Businessweek in Washington.

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