Two Texas lawmakers -- a Republican and a Democrat who have both been critical of President Obama's response to the crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border -- have teamed up to write a bill to respond to the influx of unaccompanied minors arriving at the border.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, plan to introduce legislation as early as Tuesday that would send about 40 immigration judges to the border to speed up immigration court proceedings for the youngsters.
The legislation has been framed as an "improvement" to the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 -- a bipartisan law aimed at curbing human trafficking that makes it easier to deport children from Mexico than from non-contiguous countries such as the Central American nations from which many of the children crossing the border this year have originated.
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The legislation would treat all unaccompanied migrant children crossing the border equally, allowing for voluntary reunification with family. If a child intends to stay in the U.S., he or she would get an initial court hearing within a week of their arrival. Then, a judge would have 72 hours to determine whether or not the child has a legal claim to stay in the U.S. If not, the minor would be sent to his or her home country immediately.
Some Republicans have insisted that the 2008 law needs to be amended -- to allow for faster deportation of undocumented immigrants of Central America -- in order to discourage Central American parents from sending their children to the U.S. However, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus has insisted that children, who are largely coming to the U.S. from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador to escape violence and human rights abuses, deserve their day in court before being deported.
The White House, meanwhile, has said that it wants to grant the undocumented children the due process they are legally entitled to -- but more efficiently.
An aide to Cornyn said that the legislation -- which Cornyn and Cuellar are calling the "Helping Unaccompanied Minors and Alleviating National Emergency (Humane) Act" -- would discourage Central American families from sending more children North while preserving the minors' due process rights.
Additionally, the aide said, "Given what we have seen with children from Mexico, we would expect that many would choose the expedited return home, like many Mexicans, rather than the courts. So the number of children going through the court system would be much lower."
Cornyn and Cuellar expect the Humane Act to serve as a companion bill to the $3.7 billion plan the White House has put forward to bolster resources at the border in response to the issue. Republicans have already suggested they are reluctant to give the president that full figure, indicating they are more interested in targeted spending as well as changes to existing laws that will speed up the process of removing the children from the United States and deterring them from entering in the first place.
CBS News Capitol Hill correspondent Nancy Cordes contributed to this report.
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