House, Senate miles appart on border funding bill
The bottom line here is simple; Republicans don't want to spend a lot of money hiring immigration judges and paying for legal representation for the illegal alien minors. They want the kids to be treated as other illegals are treated and deported.
The Democrats are referring to the House bill as "inhumane" and are looking for about twice the amount of money the GOP wants to spend.
Predictably, both sides are blaming the other for the impasse.
While imposing tough new deportation rules on children fleeing Central America, the border crisis bill unveiled by House Republicans on Tuesday stands out most for the lack of new money provided to hire more immigration judges and to help the unaccompanied minors get legal representation.
All departments would get less money than Senate Democrats and President Barack Obama have proposed. But the discrepancy here — when compared to the Senate bill filed last week — is stark.
Just $22 million is provided to the Justice Department under the House bill — $12.9 million to hire additional immigration judges and $9.1 million for technology upgrades to expedite the hearing process through video conferencing, for example.
By comparison, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) has proposed $123.4 million for Justice — more than five times as much. Nearly $63 million would go to hire new immigration judges and $50 million to help the children be represented in court — something that's left out of the House bill entirely.
What makes the difference most striking is that Republicans are calling for a greatly expedited deportation process with strict deadlines that will require a much faster turnaround for each case.
Children crossing the U.S. border from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala would now be subject to an immigration court hearing that must occur not more than seven days after they are screened by child welfare officials. And the judge would have to make a ruling within 72 hours after the conclusion of that proceeding.
Putting aside the policy questions, longtime observers of the immigration court system say this will be an immense procedural and administrative challenge from a practical standpoint. And Speaker John Boehner’s office had said resources and personnel would be surged to the border to meet the goal.
An aide to House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) said he was convinced that investments in video-conferencing will help make up the differences. But Mikulski also included $6.7 million for this purpose and still wanted a lot more judges — as well as legal counsel for the children.
Neither side's bill is "practical" in the sense that it doesn't solve anything. It would take at least two years to hire the number of judges the Democrats want, nor is it likely that the GOP's timetables can be met. The Democrats authorize no funds to help border security - which dooms the measure in the House.
But Harry Reid is now talking about attaching the comprehensive immigration reform bill to the Senate version of the border funding bill. He hopes to get the GOP into conference on he border bill and try and ram the immigration reform package through the House.
It's not going to work. And besides, the Senate border funding bill is in deep trouble and not likely to pass.
The endgame is not going to be played out before the August recess, which starts Friday. There may be an effort to pass a temporary funding bill for ICE to be able to care for those in detention centers until a more extensive bill can be passed. But given how far apart the two sides are, that isn't likely either.