Obama asks Congress for $3.7 billion to handle border crisis

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Politics,White House,Immigration,Barack Obama,National Security,PennAve,Susan Crabtree,Border Security,Budgets and Deficits,Law

President Obama is asking Congress for $3.7 billion to respond to the immigration crisis at the Texas border -- nearly twice as much as early reports expected him to request.

Of those funds, more than half, $1.8 billion, would go to the Department of Health and Human Services to house and care for the 52,000 unaccompanied children apprehended along the border after crossing into the border and the tens of thousands more expected in the coming months.

Highlights of the plan include:

• The Homeland Security Department's Immigration and Customs Enforcement division would receive $1.1 billion to pay for more a more border enforcement units in Central American countries and the apprehension and detention of adults traveling with minors, and transportation costs involved.

• The department's Customs and Border Protection agency would receive $433 million to pay for overtime pay for border patrol agents and additional crews for unmanned aerial surveillance systems.

• Only a fraction of the funds — $64 million — would be devoted to hiring more immigration judges and attorneys to help expedite the judicial processing of illegal immigrants, which even before the crisis often took two years with many immigrants failing to show up for their hearings.

A White House aide also said the administration intends to expand its use of ankle bracelets to ensure that unaccompanied children and adults coming from Central America and apprehended at the border can be tracked to make sure they show up for court proceedings.

To try to deter more unaccompanied children from making the journey to the United States, the White House pledged to increase the detainment and removal of adults with children and increase the immigration court's ability to speed up the processing of cases.

In making the request, White House aides said they would work with Congress to change a 2008 law signed by President George W. Bush they say prevents the immediate removal of immigrant children from countries like those in Central America that are not contiguous to the United States.

“It's the president's intention to work with Congress to increase penalties for smugglers and to make the process of removal more efficient” while using the authorities they already have to try to expedite the judicial process, a White House aide told reporters.

“When children enter the United States unaccompanied we will do our utmost to care for them” in the best way we can, the aide said. “But children who do not qualify for refugee relief will be returned.”

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