Obama to seek funds to stem border influx

2014-06-29 21:21

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Washington - The White House is poised to seek about $2bn in emergency funds to help stem the flow of tens of thousands of Central American children entering the United States illegally.

The request will add to an already fiery debate in Washington over US immigration reform and growing concerns about the steady increase of minors illicitly smuggled from Central America and across Mexico into the US.

The move signals a clear ratcheting-up in border-control policy, also with a view to the more speedy deportation of those already in the United States, an administration official said on Sunday.

The White House on Monday will send a letter informing Congress it will be requesting the additional resources to help boost border security, among other measures, as well as attempting to get to the root causes of migration.

The measures will include stepping up the fight against criminal networks responsible for smuggling children, the official said, adding the administration of President Barack Obama will also ask lawmakers to modify existing statutes to simplify the process of returning deportees.

Since October, 52 000 unaccompanied children under age 17 have been detained crossing the border, twice the number from the same period a year ago.

Three-quarters come from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.

Fleeing spasms of violence in their home countries, many are lured by false rumours of "permisos", or residence permits for minors, that Republican critics argue are fuelled by what they say is Obama's pro-immigration message.

"Apparently, word has gotten out that, once encountered by Border Patrol agents and processed, thanks to this administration's lax enforcement policies, one will likely never be removed," House Judiciary Committee chairperson Bob Goodlatte, who oversees House immigration legislation through his committee, told a hearing last week.

The uproar has forced Obama into the awkward position of pleading with Central Americans not to rush the US border.

"Our message absolutely is, don't send your children unaccompanied, on trains or through a bunch of smugglers," Obama told ABC News on Thursday.

"If they do make it, they'll get sent back."

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