President Obama has urged Congress to quickly provide almost $4 billion to confront a surge of young migrants from Central America crossing the border into Texas, calling it “an urgent humanitarian situation.”
But the request quickly became entangled in the fierce political debate over immigration: Republicans said they were wary of Mr. Obama’s request and could not immediately support it, given what they called his administration’s failure to secure the Mexican border after years of illegal crossings. Mr. Obama could face resistance from members of his own party as well.
The president said he needed the money to set up new detention facilities, conduct more aerial surveillance and hire immigration judges and Border Patrol agents to respond to the flood of 52,000 children. Their sudden mass migration has overwhelmed local resources and touched off protests from residents angry about the impact on the local economy.
Many Republicans, especially in the House, remain deeply suspicious of the president’s commitment, a mistrust that led to a stalemate on a broader immigration overhaul and now threatens to at least delay speedy passage of Mr. Obama’s $3.7 billion spending request.
White House officials said the president was not backing away from a request last week for more flexibility in how enforcement agents treat the Central American migrants who are surging across the border. A 2008 law aimed at combating human trafficking requires officials to provide extra legal protections for migrants from countries that do not share a border with the United States. Those protections are not provided to Mexicans, who are often quickly returned home after being caught trying to enter the United States illegally. White House officials said they would like Congress to allow officials to process migrants from places like Honduras and Guatemala as quickly as Mexicans. One White House official said the administration was seeking to have “one approach to children coming from the region.”