The White House on Friday announced a new plan to speed the deportations of young children flooding across the U.S.-Mexico border, saying they would deploy more judges to handle immigration cases and establish family detention centers for those who entered the country illegally.
In a conference call with reporters, administration officials said that as of June 15, 52,000 unaccompanied children had been apprehended along the southwest border. The White House has been on the defensive over a huge surge in the number of young children entering the U.S. from Central America, with critics arguing that President Obama's immigration policies have encouraged illegal border crossings.
The White House said it would send more judges and staffers to reduce the backlog of immigration cases but did not provide specific numbers about the amount of additional workers.
“We are surging government enforcement resources to increase our capacity to detain individuals and adults who bring their children with them and to handle immigration court hearings in cases where hearings are necessary – as quickly and efficiently as possible while also protecting those who are seeking asylum," the White House said. "That will allow [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement] to return unlawful migrants from Central America to their home countries more quickly."
“The policies of your administration have directly resulted in the belief by these immigrants that once they reach U.S. soil, they will be able to stay here indefinitely,” Boehner wrote in a letter to Obama.
Obama previously deferred deportations of Dream-Act eligible illegal immigrants, but the White House says that children now crossing the border illegally are not eligible for that program.
Administration officials conceded Friday that some families had been released while waiting for their deportation hearings but did not provide exact figures.
Vice President Joe Biden is attending a meeting in Guatemala on Friday to discuss the issue.
The White House also announced tens of millions of dollars in new funding for Central American governments to respond to the crisis.