The Obama administration on Tuesday asked Congress to approve $3.7 billion in emergency funding to help stem the tide of child migrants flowing across the U.S.-Mexico border from Central American countries that has sparked both a humanitarian and political crisis in recent weeks.
That request came a day after White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said that administration officials expect that most of the 52,000 unaccompanied minors who’ve flooded the Southwest border since last October would eventually be deported back to their home countries. Most have come from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, in many cases to escape escalating violence and grinding poverty in those countries.
White House officials said that more than half of the emergency cash—$1.8 billion—would help cover the costs of providing medical services to the surge of children at the border, as well as for expanding the number of longer-term shelter facilities and other services provided to unaccompanied minors after they are released by U.S. Border Patrol agents into the custody and care of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Another $1.6 billion would pay for increased deployment of Border Patrol agents, immigration judges, and asylum officers to expedite the process of removal proceedings for children who do not meet the criteria to remain in the United States legally. Some of that money would also be used to increase resources of U.S. and Central American law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute the illegal smuggling networks that are bringing many of the unaccompanied minors to the border, the White House officials said.
The administration has also requested $300 million for the U.S. State Department to continue its public-relations campaign in the three countries to counter misinformation that once children arrive at the U.S. border they will be allowed to stay. And while administration officials said the emergency funds would go a long way toward helping to address the surge at the border, they also said they are seeking additional authority from Congress to speed up the deportation process for the children and youth who are among the recent arrivals.
Under a 2008 law passed by Congress and signed by President George W. Bush, child migrants from noncontiguous countries cannot be deported once they are detained at the border. They are entitled to appear before an immigration judge before any decisions are made about their fate, but a massive backlog of cases in federal immigration court has resulted in most of these young people waiting many months, or years, before their cases are heard.
White House officials reiterated what Earnest said a day earlier—that few of the unaccompanied migrants are likely to meet the humanitarian criteria that would allow them to stay in the United .
But even with additional resources to move cases along and broader authority to expedite deportations, there’s no doubt that many of the child migrants will remain in the United States for months, if not longer. And many will end up in public schools, a trend that has already been on the uptick in many communities around the country.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.