Administration backtracks on seeking authority to deport border kids
The Obama administration has decided to delay asking Congress to change a 2008 law that allows kids from Central America who illegally cross the border to be treated differently than kids from Mexico, who are usually immediately deported.
Democrats in Congress oppose the change, as do immigration activists. The request for $2 billion in new spending to ease the humanitarian crisis will go forward.
President Barack Obama is preparing to ask Congress for emergency spending of more than $2 billion to deal with the crisis of unaccompanied kids at the Southern border, but for now he won't seek legal changes to send the children back home more quickly.
That decision comes after immigration advocates objected strongly to administration proposals to speed thousands of unaccompanied minors back home to El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, where many face gang violence.
The White House insists the kids must be returned. Administration officials say they are still working on ways to do it faster, but say that the request for specific legislative changes will move on a separate track than the emergency spending request Obama is sending to Congress on Tuesday.
Decoupling the spending request from the contentious policy changes, which faced pushback from Obama's own political party, may give the emergency money a better chance of getting through Congress.
The decision to submit the spending request apart from the policy changes was confirmed Monday by two Capitol Hill aides who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the plan by name ahead of the formal announcement.
An administration official said the White House has already advised the congressional leadership that it wants expanded authority and said it is still seeking those policy changes. The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the request before it is announced, said the administration always intended to send the request for money separately.
The developments underscore the delicate position the administration finds itself in as it risks alienating allies by pursuing changes to turn the migrant kids around more quickly. More than 50,000 have arrived since October, in many cases fleeing violence at home, but also drawn by rumors that they can stay in the U.S.
Congressional Republicans blame Obama policies for the confusion; Obama administration officials dispute that.
The money Obama is seeking would be for immigration judges, detention facilities, legal aid and other items that could address the situation on the border, which the administration has termed a humanitarian crisis.
It's hard to see how the proposal to change the law was ever taken seriously by the White House. They knew what the reaction of immigration activists and many in their own party would be. The proposal was a sop thrown to Republicans to get them to back the funding request.
What this means is that HHS will continue to fly these kids around the country to process them and release them to their families, or warehouse them until foster care or other arrangements can be made.
Whatever those arrangements are going to be, they better get it done quickly. Fox News is reporting TB outbreaks at the detention centers:
More than 7,000 children have been processed through the two camps, according to a BCFS official. They allege that only 119 children have been treated for lice, 22 for scabies, and one for the H1N1 Flu. BCFS says the most common illnesses seen at Lackland are fever, headache, upper respiratory cold and ingrown toenails.
However, at least a half dozen anonymous sources, including nurses and health care providers who worked at Lackland, allege that the government is covering up what they believe to be a very serious health threat.
Several of my sources tell me that tuberculosis has become a dangerous issue at both the border and the camps.
"The amount of tuberculosis is astonishing," one health care provider told me. "The nurses are telling us the kids are really sick. The tuberculosis is definitely there."
Texas Department of State Health Services Commissioner David Lakey, M.D. says state health officials have seen only three cases of tuberculosis, the Associated Press reports. One of my sources with close ties to the Texas HHS tells me all three cases were reported in Austin.
However, nurses at Lackland in San Antonio, said they know of at least four teenagers in their camp who have tuberculosis.
Since HHS is not allowing anyone to tour the facilities without an appointment, you have to wonder what else they're hiding.
The situation is only going to get worse as the government estimates that twice the number of illegal children will arrive in the US next year. You can be sure they won't be any healthier than this bunch and the crisis will go on.