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Obama Administration Seeks Change In Law To Speed Deportations

Children detainees sleep in a holding cell at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection processing facility in Brownsville,Texas.
Eric Gay
Children detainees sleep in a holding cell at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection processing facility in Brownsville,Texas.

President Obama will ask Congress for about $2 billion in emergency funds and for a change in the law in an effort to stem the tide of Central American immigrants flooding the Southern border, according to a White House official.

The New York Times, which first reported the story, adds:

"Mr. Obama will send a letter on Monday to alert Congress that he will seek an emergency appropriation for rapidly expanding border enforcement actions and humanitarian assistance programs to cope with the influx, which includes record numbers of unaccompanied minors and adults bringing children. The officials gave only a general estimate of the amount, saying the White House would send a detailed request for the funds when Congress returned after the Fourth of July recess that began Friday and ends July 7.

"The president will also ask Congress to revise existing statutes to give the Homeland Security secretary, Jeh Johnson, new authorities to accelerate the screening and deportation of young unaccompanied migrants who are not from Mexico. Fast-track procedures are already in place to deport young migrants from Mexico because it shares a border with the United States."

Under current law, Border Patrol is required to take any minor who is not Mexican into custody and then turn them over to the Office of Refugee Resettlement. Usually those children are released in the U.S. to a family member or put in foster care, while they await their day in immigration court.

Mexican children, on the other hand, can be quickly deported without going through that process.

Citing an unnamed official, The Associated Press reports the White House wants to apply that kind of "fast track" procedure to all minors, regardless of their nationality. The New York Times reports White House is asking Congress to "eliminate delays in deporting children determined to have no legal option to stay."

As we've reported, the Southwest border has been flooded with unaccompanied minors. So far in fiscal year 2014, Border Patrol have apprehended 52,193 minors — an almost 100 percent increase from fiscal year 2013.

The Washington Post spoke to an administration official who said the White House wants Congress to "work with us to ensure that we have the legal authorities to maximize the impact of our efforts."

A White House official tells NPR that some of that supplemental appropriation will be used for "an aggressive deterrence strategy focused on the removal and repatriation of recent border-crossers."

This move will, no doubt, have critics. A few days ago, for example, the American Civil Liberties Union warned that fast deportations could threaten the rights and well-being of immigrant families and kids.

"Many children crossing the border are seeking refugee protection from violence in their home countries," Laura W. Murphy, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office, said in a statement. "Both due process and international law require that these kids' claims be fully and fairly assessed by immigration judges, not dismissed in assembly-line hearings."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.
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