The Obama administration says it is “surging” resources to confront the flood of illegal unaccompanied minors and family units coming across the southern border.
On the enforcement side, the Department of Homeland Security announced Friday it is stepping up enforcement resources to detain more adults with children and increase immigration court hearing capacity as a way to get illegal immigrants from Central America who are ordered removed back to their home countries more “quickly.”
DHS Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told reporters on a conference call Friday afternoon that since October, 52,000 unaccompanied children have been apprehended along the southwest border as of June 15, and approximately 39,000 adults with children have been apprehended along the border as of the end of May.
House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte quickly criticized the Obama plan to confront the border crisis as “smoke and mirrors.”
“President Obama’s plan to deal with the crisis at the border created by his administration’s bad immigration policies is nothing but smoke and mirrors,” the Virginia Republican said Friday after the announcement.
“Many of the children, teenagers, and adults arriving at the border are able to game our asylum and immigration laws because the Obama Administration has severely weakened them and many thousands have already been released into the interior of the United States. What does President Obama plan to do with those who have already been released from custody?” he rhetorically asked.
Administration officials were unable to tell reporters Friday how many illegal immigrants released into the country with notices to appear had actually returned for their immigration hearings.
In addition to the “surge,” the Obama administration announced the U.S. will send an extra $9.6 million to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to help repatriate their citizens.
The U.S. will also provide another $40 million for a USAID citizen security program in Guatemala, a new $25 million Crime and Violence Prevention USAID program for outreach centers in El Salvador, and $18.5 million to Honduras to help local police combat crime.
The White House admitted rumors of free entry to the United States are motivating migrants to risk the trek northward. Officials said they are pushing back against “misinformation,” noting that Vice President Biden’s trip to Guatamala to meet with the leaders of El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico is part of that effort.
“[They will] outline ways in which we will be working together to deal with this problem, again the source, to make sure we are doing everything possible both to support countries in stemming the tide of this migration but also to deal with the misinformation that is being deliberately planted by criminal organizations, by smuggling networks, about what people can expect if they come to the United States,” White House Director of Domestic Policy Cecilia Muñoz said on a conference call with reporters Friday.
“Part of what the Vice President’s effort and the administration’s effort overall is to make sure people have accurate information and that we push back on the misinformation that’s being spread and that’s contributing to this problem,” she said.
The White House elaborated in a “Fact Sheet” distributed Friday that specifically, Biden “will reiterate that unaccompanied children and adults arriving with their children are not eligible to benefit from the passage of immigration reform legislation or from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) process.”
DACA allows certain illegal immigrants to live and work in the United States. Republicans have argued that DACA and lax immigration enforcement has served to draw more illegal immigration.
Muñoz’s comments about the “misinformation” Friday contradict statements she made earlier in the month. In early June, she argued against the idea that misperceptions about America’s current immigration system was fueling the migration, instead pointing to unsavory issues in their home countries and a desire to be reunified with their parents as the motivation.
According to Goodlatte, the best way to take on the problem is to enforce the nation’s immigration laws.
“If President Obama really wants to fix this problem, he should implement real solutions, such as enforcing our immigration laws, reversing his policies that created this mess in the first place, and proposing urgently needed legislative fixes,” Goodlatte added Friday. “But unfortunately, he is using deceptive tactics to make it appear that he is doing something when he actually isn’t.”
Earlier Friday House Speaker Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) called on Obama to send the National Guard to the border to assist with the situation. Officials told reporters Friday afternoon that the administration does not have current plans to deploy National Guard troops there.