House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, on Thursday said that by the end of this month the House should pass legislation to address the influx of unaccompanied minors illegally crossing into the United States. However, he said, "We're not giving the president a blank check."
President Obama has asked Congress for an extra $3.7 billion to deal with the crisis. The money would be spent on resources like detention centers to hold the children and court resources to process their deportation cases, as well as border security.
Before the funding is passed, Boehner suggested that the legislation should be amended to change a 2008 law that makes it easier to deport children from Mexico or Canada than from non-contiguous countries. That law, the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, was passed with strong bipartisan support to protect minors. The White House has suggested it agrees with some lawmakers that the law has now tied its hands as it tries to handle the current influx of children; however, the administration has not asked Congress specifically to amend the law.
"I think we all agree the non-contiguous countries that now we're required to hold those people, I think clearly we would probably want the language similar to what we have with Mexico," Boehner said Thursday.
The speaker added that "we've got a true humanitarian crisis under way with children caught in the middle."
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., has warned that if Congress doesn't approve the $3.7 billion in extra funding, Republicans will be blamed for perpetuating the problem. Boehner, however, said that the current crisis is "a problem of the president's own making," charging that "his actions gave false hope to children and their families" who want to stay in the United States.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said on Thursday that she's not interested in changing the Wilberforce law. If anything, she said, "if they want to make it uniform, I'd rather they treat the Mexican kids the way they treat the non-contiguous kids."
However, she added that amending the Wilberforce law is "not a deal-breaker." She argued that while some Democrats have different views on the 2008 law, the real priority was approving the extra funding.
"If that's the face-saver for them, let them have the face-saver," Pelosi said of the GOP's interest in amending the 2008 law. "But let us have the resources to do what we need to do."