White House press secretary Josh Earnest took a harder line on the tens of thousands of illegal alien children streaming across the border than the Department of Homeland Security secretary did on Sunday, saying “most” of the children will likely eventually be deported.
“Bottom line though is that the law will be enforced and what that means is, it means that these children who have been apprehended will go through the immigration court process. And if they are found to not have a legal basis for remaining in the country, they will be returned,” said during Monday’s White House press briefing.
“It’s unlikely that most of the kids who go through this process will qualify for humanitarian relief, which is to say that most of them will not be found through that court process to have a legal basis to remain in this country,” he added.
On Sunday, Department of Homeland Security Sec. Jeh Johnson would not offer a direct answer on whether or not the unaccompanied minors would be deported.
“There is a deportation proceeding that is commenced against illegal migrants, including children. We are looking at ways to create additional options for dealing with the children in particular, consistent with our laws and our values,” Johnson said on Meet the Press.
Although saying most children would be deported, Earnest stressed the need for the children to have due process, noting that each case will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
“Based on what we know about these cases, it is unlikely that most of these kids will qualify for humanitarian relief,” Earnest explained. “And what that means is they will not have a legal basis for remaining in this country and will be returned.”
Earnest was not however able to answer to how many of the illegal immigrants who are released with a notice to appear actually return to appear before an immigration court. Reports have indicated that number is very small.
“I think what the number would illustrate — if I had it in front of me — it would illustrate that the court system is not operating as efficiently as we would like it to particularly in light of the recent surge at the southwest border,” he said.
Since October more than 52,000 unaccompanied minors have been apprehended illegally entering the United States — the vast majority of the children are from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala.
According to Earnest, however, the administration expects most of the children will not have a legal basis for remaining and will therefore be sent home.
When asked why the administration believes it will be able to send more illegal immigrant children back to their home counties when it has not done so in the past, Earnest responded that the surge of resources for the crisis — such as immigration judges and lawyers — will assist in that process.
“We will be able to add capacity to the system that will allow these claims to be processed more efficiently,” he said.
Earnest added that the White House is not concerned with the “optics” of President Obama not visiting the border during his trip to Texas for fundraisers. Instead stressing the need to pass immigration reform.