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Surge of Illegal Immigrants: Should Congress Act or is White House to Blame?

June 30, 2014 - 6:00pm
With more than 50,000 illegal immigrants entering the nation in recent months, many of whom came through the Mexican border and entered through south Texas, President Barack Obama urged Congress to take steps to address the urgent humanitarian situation in the R Grande Valley areas of our nation's Southwest border on Monday even as a Florida Republican pointed the blame at the White House.

Obama wrote congressional leaders, asking them to provide new tools and resources we need to implement a unified, comprehensive federal government response to the immigration surge.

While overall apprehensions across our entire border have only slightly increased during this time period and remain at near historic lows, we have seen a significant rise in apprehensions and processing of children and individuals from Central America who are crossing into the United States in the R Grande Valley areas of the Southwest border, Obama wrote. The individuals who embark upon this perilous journey are subject to violent crime, abuse, and extortion as they rely on dangerous human smuggling networks to transport them through Central America and Mexico.

Obama insisted his administration "continues to address this urgent humanitarian situation with an aggressive, unified, and coordinated federal response on both sides of the border, pointing to efforts from the U.S. Departments of Justice (DOJ) and Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

DOJ and DHS are deploying additional enforcement resources -- including immigration judges, immigration and customs enforcement attorneys, and asylum officers -- to focus on individuals and adults traveling with children from Central America and entering without authorization across the Southwest border, Obama wrote congressional leaders. Part of this surge will include detention of adults traveling with children, as well as expanded use of the Alternatives to Detention program, to avoid a more significant humanitarian situation. The DHS is working to secure additional space that satisfies applicable legal and humanitarian standards for detention of adults with children. This surge of resources will mean that cases are processed fairly and as quickly as possible, ensuring the protection of asylum seekers and refugees while enabling the prompt removal of individuals who do not qualify for asylum or other forms of relief ... Finally, to attack the criminal organizations and smuggling rings that are exploiting these individuals, we are surging law enforcement task forces in cooperation with our international partners, with a focus on stepped-up interdiction and prosecution.

Obama also insisted that his team, specifically Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, is working with leaders across the region. Kerry will be meeting with Latin American leaders on the matter on Tuesday.

Obama called on Congress to give the DHS additional authority to exercise discretion in processing the return and removal of unaccompanied minor children from noncontiguous countries like Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador and increase penalties on those who smuggle vulnerable migrants, like children across the border.

Turning to appropriations, Obama asked Congress for funds to back an aggressive deterrence strategy focused on the removal and repatriation of recent border crossers including enhanced domestic enforcement, including interdiction and prosecution of criminal networks. Obama also called for the resources necessary to appropriately detain, process, and care for children and adults as well as more immigration judges.

My administration will be submitting a formal detailed request when the Congress returns from recess, and I look forward to working with you to address this urgent situation as expeditiously as possible, Obama concluded.

But a freshman Republican in the Florida delegation insists Obama is to blame for the surge in illegal immigrants.

U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., weighed in on the matter at the end of last week, attacking Obamas policies and supporting Republican-backed legislation on the matter. Yoho sits on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Yoho announced he was backing the Southwest Border Protection Act which would allow governors to request up to 10,000 members of the National Guard to protect the border with Mexico and the National Border and Homeland Security Act which adds 6,000 extra Border Patrol agents and adds additional security measures to the border. The Florida congressman also is supporting the Illegal Entry Accountability Act" which cuts off foreign aid to Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador until Congress believes they are helping stem illegal immigration to America. Yoho also signed off on U.S. Rep. Darrell Issas, R-Calif., letter calling on Obama to work with Congress in securing the border.

Poor economic conditions and violence in Central America have existed for many years and thus do not explain the recent surge of immigrants across our southern border, Yoho said on Friday. The current crisis along our southern border is a direct result of this administrations failure to enforce existing law. This lax approach has only encouraged more individuals to come to the United States illegally. It is my duty as a member of Congress to support legislation that will secure our borders and protect our national sovereignty.

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