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A group of 22 migrants, mostly women and children from Honduras and Guatemala, in custody just after crossing the Rio Grande near McAllen, Texas, June 18, 2014. (Photo: Jennifer Whitney / The New York Times)
The ultimate outcome of the Obama administration’s request for more than $3.7 billion in emergency supplemental funding to address a recent influx of tens of thousands of unaccompanied, undocumented Central American refugee children crossing the southern border daily to escape increased violence and poverty rests with Congress, but it’s clear action is necessary.
Senate Democrats remain split on the issue of expediting the deportation process for thousands of refugee children, who, under a 2008 human trafficking law signed by former President Bush, are entitled to full due-process rights and consideration for asylum. House Republicans are seeking to tie any increase in funding to changes in the 2008 law that would speed up the deportation process. The White House has also sought to water down the due process protections provided under the human trafficking law in recent days.
Additional funding is sorely needed to provide humanitarian relief in the form of social services, humane housing and legal representation for thousands of unaccompanied children currently suffering through overcrowded, inhumane conditions at detention facilities at the border. (Since October, more than 52,000 unaccompanied children and families fleeing mainly from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala have been detained by border agents, and federal agents predict that between 60,000 and 90,000 refugee children will travel to the United States just this year.)
However, if Obama’s supplemental spending request is passed, much of that funding would be dedicated to increased border security measures designed to greet many migrants who are already willingly giving themselves up to border agents when they enter the country.