By Peter Schroeder - 07/23/14 10:08 AM EDT
House Republicans would deploy the National Guard to the border, change trafficking laws to more quickly process Central American children and beef up judicial and law enforcement resources under a party plan for tackling the surge of child immigrants entering the United States.
Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas), who led the GOP working group developing the party’s plan, billed her team’s recommendations as “common-sense, compassionate, but tough” during a presentation to the entire House Republican conference Wednesday.
Her recommendations set up a scramble to pass an emergency funding measure for the border before Congress breaks for a monthlong August recess at the end of next week.
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) is also expected to discuss his version of a spending package with Republicans, after the White House requested $3.7 billion for the border. Neither Republicans nor Democrats are expected to provide funding near that level.
Granger’s plan would change a 2008 human trafficking law to ensure that Central American children who do not wish to voluntarily return to their country receive an expedited immigration hearing within a week of being seen by child welfare officials.
While the White House requested tweaks to that law, Democrats have staunchly opposed changes, and that provision has emerged as a fault line. A competing Senate plan is not expected to include language changing the 2008 law.
The House proposal would also require the Department of Homeland Security to establish a strategy to gain “operational control of the border,” after more than 50,000 child migrants have surged across it in recent months. Republicans would also create a third-party commission to set up metrics to measure progress on tightening up security on the border.
To help speed along the processing of immigration cases, Granger’s plan would also deploy additional judges. The report calls on Congress to revisit laws that allow immigrants to claim a “credible fear of persecution” in an effort to stay in the U.S., warning of fraud in the system. Criminals and gang members would not be permitted to receive asylum under the plan.
The working group also wants to see the U.S. ramp up its efforts in Central American nations to try and stamp out illegal immigration before it starts. Among their recommendations are to establish border security and repatriation centers within nations like Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.
The group also wants to see the U.S. launch “aggressive messaging campaigns” in those nations to dispel the idea that people, especially children, could remain in the U.S. if they make it over the border, and to emphasize the danger and legal risks such a journey entails.