The House working group, chaired by Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas), have today released a dozen policy proposals to go along with some emergency funding for what the mainstream media is calling a humanitarian crisis on the border. Chief among these is a modification of the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 (see my blog piece from the 15th) which would allow unaccompanied children from non-contiguous countries to voluntarily return to their home countries, and their parents, upon coming into custody of DHS. Currently, only children from Mexico and Canada have this option. This issue is probably the most divisive of all those facing approval of some emergency funding to deal with the unaccompanied minors clogging South Texas. Harry Reid, practically all Senate Democrats and the further left of the House Democrats all oppose what they call “weakening protections for children.” The President has called for Congressional action to allow him to do… something like that. What, exactly, the President thinks he wants to do is not clear, and John Boehner, Speaker of the House, today sent him a letter asking him to make his desires plain. Presumably Democrats understand how returning children to their home country, and their parents, on a strictly voluntary basis and in accordance with the plainly expressed wishes of at least two of the Presidents of the involved countries, weakens their protection, but nobody’s explained it to me as prima facie it defies logic.
Another key proposal is to revamp the system for those children who prefer not to immediately return. Currently they kids are given a court date and remanded into somebody’s custody– one of the big problems is just whom exactly these people are; we could be helping somebody traffic them– for anything up to years of time before their court date is scheduled. The children call this a “permiso,” a permit, and appear to believe it is an entitlement to live in the US. Many of them do not show up in court when required. The proposed change is to keep them in DHS custody and require their court date to occur within 7 days– speedy trial and all that. I strongly suspect the political left will deeply object to this as well, albeit I am not sure how vocal they can be in an election year without openly admitting their actual purpose is to subvert US immigration law. So far, there have been no screams of outrage over it; possibly because it’s a really good idea.
Those are the high spots, although there are some minor provisions as well: permission for ICE to enter federal lands to enforce the border, currently opposed by EPA among others; detaining family groups (not unaccompanied minors) at the border and processing them within 7 days as above; tougher penalties for the coyotes; tougher penalties for the child traffickers; boosting the number of immigration judges; deploying the Guard to the border to assist in caring for the children; etc. An interesting one, IMHO, is a proposal to build repatriation centers in the countries where the children are coming from to “assist” them in being repatriated. I don’t see a lot of need for the latter, and fear it might expose some US staffers to violence in faraway lands. OTOH, it would give every Democrat in the country an opportunity to volunteer to actually do something concrete to help the kids they say they are concerned about and get them neatly out of the country for a while as serendipity. Thus it would be cheap at the price, no matter what it cost, and I say go for it Dems. Put up or shut up.
House Democrats are “reviewing” the matter and have not yet determined if they will support it, or part of it. Many of the lefties, as I said, oppose any modification of the 2008 act at all. I’m sure I don’t understand why as I doubt any of them have read it; it was passed in about 40 hours late in the 43’s last term, as I have explained in my post linked above. But oppose it they do, according to a quote for Luis Gutierrez (D, IL):
“Almost every Democrat I talk to says we should hold the line on the laws passed to protect children from sex trafficking and smugglers,” he said. “The Republicans seem to be divided between the ones who don’t think the money is necessary, the ones who want to weaken laws protecting children and the ones who want to deport all of the DREAMers and other undocumented immigrants before we do anything else.”
Others in the Democrat caucus seem to support it, notably Henry Cuellar of Texas and Ron Barber of Arizona.
The money the House working group proposes is $1.5bln, far short of the President’s request for $3.7bln. The House proposal is offset with other spending cuts, albeit I have not yet found a source to determine just what will be cut. There is some resistance to this proposal in the House Republican caucus. Some of them seem to think the President has caused this problem (lot of truth in that), and he should fix it within his already authorized budget. Others appear to be worried this proposal will have to be conferenced with a Senate bill along the same lines and is going to look like it was written in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics when it returns. How large, and how deep, is this opposition is not yet clear. Both Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy have urged action on a bill to deal with this problem before the August recess, now just days away.
In another Obamacare-related death, the Senate was scheduled to release a competing bill today as well, but if they have done so I can’t find a story about it. There are quite a few, but they all say something like “Senate To Unveil Border Bill” as opposed to “Senate Has Unveiled Border Bill.” Senator Barbara Mikulski (D, MA), chair of Senate Appropriations, has publicly spoken about the package she’s putting together, which is supposed to include $2.7bln in funding and no changes to “children’s protections.” Senator John Cornyn (R, TX), Minority Whip, has introduced bipartisan legislation in concert with Rep. Henry Cuellar (D, TX) that would be very similar to the House working group’s proposal. It is unlikely this bill will be allowed a vote in Harry Reid’s Senate. What, if anything, the Senate will eventually do is known only to the Deity, and perhaps Harry Reid.
So there it stands. We have an Obama-Caused Disaster on the Southern border. The House Republicans are attempting to put together a package to try to deal with it. They may or may not be successful. I have no idea at all what the Senate is doing, except Mikulski is supposed to be working on it. Who knows, maybe this time something will happen.