By Bruce Alpert
Sen. David Vitter, R-La., is asking Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson about Obama administration plans to temporarily house Central American children crossing the United States borders and how many could end up in Louisiana.
"This was an entirely foreseeable crisis," Vitter said Thursday. "Our borders go unsecured and our president does everything in his power to prevent the Border Patrol from doing its job, so an influx of illegal immigrants should come as no surprise. "Now, instead of deportation like I've suggested, the administration wants to relocate the unaccompanied children, and they need to tell states what to expect."
Johnson, appearing on Capitol Hill, said the administration wants more resources to deal with the crisis.
Under a 2008 law, children from noncontiguous countries, such as Central America, are referred to the Office of Refugee Resettlement and assured due process and a hearing before they can be returned to their original countries. The process is much quicker for children crossing the border from contiguous nations Mexico and Canada.
Johnson said it's important to stop the flow of children, many of whom endured long, harsh journeys, to get here.
"People in Central America need to see illegal migrants coming back," Johnson said. "The children accompanied by their parents, and the unaccompanied adults. We're doing it, and lessening the time it takes to happen. So, we're asking for additional resources to turn those people around quicker."
Johnson told the Senate Appropriations Committee that up to 90,000 unaccompanied children could cross the U.S. border by September. He said the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement will run out of funding in August and Customs and Border Protection is running low in funds, as well.
Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, wouldn't commit Thursday to quick action on the president's request for a $3.7 billion emergency package, but said he and other Republicans would insist on a comprehensive package designed to deal with the problem.
"Our priorities are clear: Take care of these children, return them safely home, to their home countries, to their families and secure the border," Boehner said.
Josh Earnest, President Barack Obama's spokesman, said the president is ready to work with congressional Republicans.
"I think it's important to recognize, however, that the request that was put together by this administration and sent up to Congress earlier this week does reflect a lot of the priorities that Republican members of Congress have themselves articulated," Earnest said. "So everything from funding to ensure that public health concerns are addressed, to additional resources on the border, to additional immigration enforcement resources in the form of immigration judges and ICE prosecutors -- all of these were things that Republicans say should be used to address the urgent situation on the border -- all of these things are included as line items in the proposal that this administration has put forward to Congress."