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VIDEO: Democrats say changing law won't stop immigration surge

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Congress,Immigration,National Security,Border Security,Video,Law,Ed Sykes

Add it to the list of things lawmakers can't agree on, and file it under immigration.

Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee clashed Thursday on how to quickly address the surge of unaccompanied minors over the Southwest border.

Senate Republicans want to change policy to stem the immigration flow and expedite deportation hearings, but unlike their House counterparts, they're not blaming the 2008 immigration law for today's issues. Instead, they say the blame rests on a 2012 policy change made by President Obama that stopped deportation of some young immigrants who meet certain criteria.

"I think it's unfortunate and counterproductive to ignore both the reality and the application of our immigration laws and the impact that's having on this crisis," said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. "What we have now today in place in this country is a disaster that needs to be addressed."

Some say Republicans are jumping to the wrong conclusion. State Department Counselor Thomas Shannon told lawmakers during Thursday's hearing the crisis is more reflective of what is happening in Central America than here in the states.

"You have economic distress in the region," Shannon said.

"Are you telling me that his executive order -- that we're not going to send children back -- didn't cause an explosion?" said Sen. James Risch, R-Idaho. "Are you denying that that has anything to do with the explosion of numbers?"

"What I'm saying is that the traffickers have a marketing strategy," Shannon said.

Democrats and administration officials say the president's proposed $3.7 billion emergency funding request is the best means of combating that marketing strategy. Committee Chair Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., said Thursday a change in the law could deny some the constitutional right to a fair trial.

"I oppose the changing of the existing law. There is a reason why that law was passed," Menendez said. "I understand the desire to accelerate the process, but accelerating without due process is not acceptable."

"I think we can do under that law the right thing for these children, and the right thing for our nation. And that's what we're balancing," said Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.

For now, however, the balance is stuck, as the parties grapple with changes to US immigration policy and what they could mean for due process.

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