The bill is well short of the $3.7 President Obama requested
Updated at 3:48 p.m.
House Republicans introduced a $659 million bill to address the surge of migrant children coming over the southern U.S. border Tuesday, well short of the $2.7 billion proposal the Senate plans on voting on later this week.
In another sign that there’s little chance of finding a compromise before the workweek’s end and subsequent five-week recess, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid suggested that if the House passed its bill, as House Speaker John Boehner expects, the chambers could discuss a conference meeting on the Senate’s comprehensive immigration reform bill passed last year. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the number-two Democrat in the chamber, flat-out opposed the House bill.
“Certainly it won’t have enough money to get the job done, but a lot depends on the substantive language,” said Durbin, who added that he would not support a House provision that would change the due process of migrant children from noncontiguous countries like Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, where many of the unaccompanied minors hail.
The House bill attempts to relieve backlogged immigration courts by allowing those Central American children to be treated as if they were Mexicans, who are screened more quickly by the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid oppose changing that provision, arguing it would grant the unaccompanied minors fewer legal protections and that there are other ways of speeding up immigration cases. The Obama Administration supports the policy change.
House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers broke down the House bill into three pots of funding: border control, temporary housing and foreign aid to Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. The majority of the money, $405 million, is set aside to boost the Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Another $197 million would be allocated for the Department of Health and Human Services, which is charged with taking care of the migrant children until their family members or guardians can be found while the minors’ immigration cases are handled. There’s also $22 million in funding to hire judges and speed up judicial proceedings, $35 million to send the National Guard to the border and $40 million to support uniting the families in the aforementioned Central American countries. The bill would cover the costs through the end of September.
The bill would be offset, Rogers announced, primarily through a $405 million cut from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Other cuts to the State, Defense and Justice departments will bring the bill to be fully offset.
Some House Republicans told TIME that the bill is a patch but not a solution.
“We’re probably going to have to deal with this again,” said Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.). “It’s obvious we’re trying to get this thing through.”
“If that’s what they’re doing, [it’s] probably all they can get passed right now,” said Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) of the Republican leadership’s plan to fund the bill for two months. When asked if Congress should do more, he said, “I think we have to.”
The Obama Administration predicts that as many as 90,000 unaccompanied minors could be apprehended on the U.S.-Mexico border before the end of September.