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Republicans offer much less cash to deal with border crisis

Salvadoran immigrant Stefany Marjorie, 8, watches as a U.S. Border Patrol agent records family information on July 24, 2014 in Mission, Texas. Like most of the recent surge of Central American immigrant women and children, her family brought documents, often birth certificates, to prove their nationality to U.S. Border officials. Tens of thousands of immigrant families and unaccompanied minors from Central America have crossed illegally into the United States this year and presented themselves to federal agents, causing a humanitarian crisis on the U.S.-Mexico border. Texas' Rio Grande Valley has become the epicenter of the latest immigrant crisis, as more of them enter illegally from Mexico into that sector than any other stretch of the America's 1,933 mile border with Mexico.

John Moore, Getty Images

After weeks of internal discussions, Republicans have put forward a bill that would allocate far less than what President Obama has proposed to deal with the crisis of unaccompanied children coming across the southern border.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky., estimates all it will take is $659 million to cover the cost of immigration law enforcement, humanitarian assistance, and steps to prevent further illegal immigration through the end of September, when the 2014 fiscal year comes to a close. Mr. Obama requested $3.7 billion through 2015, but Rogers said future funding should be addressed through the regular budget process.

"The bill introduced today will help address the urgent needs of our law enforcement personnel and federal agencies to strengthen our border, enforce our laws, care for and process the thousands of unaccompanied children and immigrant families already in the United States, and help stem the illegal immigration tide for the future - all while keeping a tight rein on taxpayer dollars," Rogers said in a statement. "This border problem has been exacerbated by the President's current immigration policies, and it will be up to the White House to take the lead in reversing the flow of illegal immigrants into our country."

The bill will give the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) another $405 million for its enforcement agencies, including Customs and Immigration Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) which will run out of money in mid-August and mid-September, respectively, if no action is taken. Another $22 million will go to hiring temporary immigration judges to speed up hearings and $35 million will double the funding for the National Guard presence at the border.

The bill also allocates $197 million for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which must care for children who cannot be swiftly deported, and $40 million to efforts to send children back to their home countries. It comes from the existing foreign aid budgets for Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

Following the recommendations made by a House Republican border crisis working group last week, the emergency funding bill includes a change to a 2008 anti-trafficking law that will make it easier to speedily deport Central American children. While those children automatically go before an immigration judge under current law, if the Republican proposal is enacted it would make them eligible for a quick deportation, like Mexican children, unless they present certain characteristics like a desire to seek asylum or are too young to be sent home alone.

After initially expressing saying they would be open to such changes, the Democratic leadership in the House and Senate now say they'll oppose any changes they feel weaken the due process for the Central American children who have come to the U.S.

Senate Democrats have lined up behind a emergency funding bill from Senate Appropriations Committee chairwoman Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., that allocates $2.73 billion to deal with the crisis.

Senate Democratic leadership aides tell CBS News Congressional Correspondent Nancy Cordes that the lower funding number offered by Republicans might be negotiable in the form of a short-term measure through the end of September, such as the one Republicans have proposed. But in return, they would ask Republicans to drop some policy demands - like a change to the 2008 law - and deal with them after the recess.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., criticized the House Republican proposal for other reasons as well, citing the failure to include emergency funding to deal with wildfires in the western U.S. and for Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system, both of which are contained in Mikulski's bill. The minority leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the Iron Dome funding could be dealt with separately.

Reid also suggested that, if House Republicans pass their bill and send it to the Senate, it could give the Senate an "opening" to go to conference on the comprehensive immigration reform package they passed last June that the House GOP refuses to take up.

The four Republican senators who helped craft that bill said last week that they would object to any effort to tack the broader immigration bill onto emergency legislation to deal with the border crisis, meaning Reid would likely not be able to find enough support even in the Democrat-led Senate for that maneuver.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, told reporters Tuesday that they hoped to put the bill up for a vote on Thursday before they leave town for a five-week summer recess.

"I think there's sufficient support in the House to move this bill. We have a little more work to do, though," Boehner said.

  • Rebecca Kaplan

    Rebecca Kaplan is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.