The Hill reports that the White House said Monday that children who have illegally crossed the border would “likely” be permitted to stay in the U.S. if their return to their home countries could imperil their lives.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest intoned:
These children will–and other immigrants who are attempting to enter the country without documentation–will go through the immigration process, and that means their claims of asylum will be considered by an immigration judge and by asylum officials. What that means is it means that if an immigration judge determines that they face a credible threat of death upon their return to their home country, then, again, I’m not an immigration judge, but it is likely that the immigration judge will find that that person should be granted humanitarian relief.
A 2008 law allows many of the immigrant children an automatic asylum hearing. Republicans want to amend the law so that the children from Central American countries, who comprise the majority of the new immigrants, undergo the same process as children from Mexico and Canada, who don’t get an automatic hearing. Democrats don’t want to change the law. The White House is being noncommittal.
Earnest said last week that the majority of the immigrant children would not be eligible for asylum and would be returned to their home countries, but his new comments appear to reverse course.
Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who is considering a 2016 presidential run, told CNN over the weekend, “We are not a country that should turn children away and send them back to certain death.”
Democratic lawmakers are fighting a suggestion that the Department of Homeland Security immediately send many of the children into deportation proceedings.
Sen. John Cornyn, a Republican, and Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Democrat, both from Texas, have pushed for Border Patrol agents to refuse permission for the immigrant children to enter and to block any asylum hearings.
Earnest reflected the White House’s approach, saying, “We’ll wait until it’s introduced, and then we’ll review the draft.” But then, he intimated that what the White House wants is more control, asserting, “What we are looking to do is get greater authority to more efficiently enforce this law.” He suggested that Obama has made a commitment to “balance the legitimate humanitarian needs of those individuals who are apprehended along the border.”
“We certainly would ensure that they receive the due process to which they are entitled,” said Earnest.