Congress to Focus on US Border Crisis

15 July, 2014

Congress soon may vote on whether to approve funds requested by President Barack Obama to deal with a rise in immigrants from Central America. President Obama requested $3.7 billion in June to pay for increased border security and temporary housing centers.

The immigrants are illegally crossing the southwestern border of the United States. Many of the people crossing into the U.S. are children under the age of 18. These immigrants are held in very crowded centers. Current immigration laws do not permit the detained young people to be sent back quickly to their country of origin.

Bob Goodlatte is a Republican member of Congress from Virginia. He says the U.S. needs stronger border enforcement. Mr. Goodlatte believes that money should be used to make sure that detainees are sent back to their home country.

Congress to Focus on US Border Crisis
Women and children walk on the tarmac after being deported from the U.S., at the Ramon Villeda international airport in San Pedro Sula, in this July 14, 2014 handout provided by the Honduran Presidential House.

Mr. Goodlatte says most of the money the president is asking for is to continue the process of bringing more undocumented people into the United States.

But extra security forces at the U.S.-Mexican border will not solve the problem. United States law requires court appearances for all non-Mexican arrivals.

Eric Holder is the U.S. Attorney General. He says that immigration laws are being enforced. But he adds that the thousands of people coming to the U.S. from Central America make the situation difficult. Mr. Holder says that changes need to be made to fix current laws.

The President of Honduras, Juan Hernandez, blames U.S. drug policies for the increase in undocumented immigrants entering the U.S. He says drug gangs and a high murder rate in Honduras force people north to the U.S.

Last year, the Senate approved changes to immigration laws, which provided for more border security. The changes also provided a path to U.S. citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants.

However, the U.S. House of Representatives has not voted on the Senate bill or any other version. The Republican Party controls the House. John Cornyn is a Republican Senator from Texas. He blames President Obama for the current border crisis. Mr. Cornyn says that people risk their lives to travel to the United States for new opportunities. He adds that many from Central America try to escape violence in their home countries.

But Mr. Cornyn says President Obama has let children and their parents who make the dangerous journey believe that immigration laws will not be enforced.

Democratic Senator Robert Menendez disagrees. He blames Congress for not doing anything to help with immigration problems. Mr. Menendez says it is easy to say 'no' but more difficult to be helpful. He believes President Obama should not be blamed because Congress has failed to act.

Time is short for a vote to take place on President Obama's request. Congress will not meet from early August to early September.

I'm Jonathan Evans.

This report was based on a story by VOA reporter Michael Bowman.