Democrats Threaten to Scuttle Deal to Deport Kids

Newsmax, July 10, 2014

Outlines of a possible compromise that would more quickly deport minors arriving from Central America emerged Thursday as part of President Barack Obama’s $3.7 billion emergency request to address the immigration crisis on the nation’s southern border.

Republicans demanded speedier deportations, which the White House initially had supported but left out of its proposal after complaints from immigrant advocates and some Democrats. On Thursday, the top House and Senate Democrats pointedly left the door open to them.

“It’s not a deal-breaker,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. “Let them have their face-saver. But let us have the resources to do what we have to do.” Her spokesman Drew Hammill later clarified that any changes “must ensure due process for these children.”

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But opposition arose late in the day from key Democratic senators, suggesting battles ahead before any deal could be struck.

“I can assure you that I will fight tooth and nail changes in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act,” Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy said at a hearing on the situation, referring to the law Republicans want to change.

Noting that the arriving migrants include young girls trying to escape sex violence and gangs, Leahy said: “I’m not sure Americans all really feel we should immediately send them back.”

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At issue is a law approved in 2008. Passed to give protection to sex trafficking victims, it requires court hearings for migrant young people who arrive in this country from “noncontiguous” countries–anywhere other than Mexico or Canada.

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Republicans want the government to have the authority to treat Central American kids the same way as kids from Mexico, who can be removed quickly unless they convince Border Patrol that they have a fear of return that merits additional screening.

“I think clearly we would probably want the language similar to what we have with Mexico,” Boehner said.

White House officials have said they support such changes and indicated last week that they would be offering them along with the emergency spending request. But immigration advocates objected strongly, saying children would be denied legal protections, and the White House has not yet made a formal proposal.

Asked Thursday about the issue, Johnson said he supported changing the law to treat children from Central American nations the same as those from Mexico.

“We want the flexibility in the current situation to have that discretion,” he said.

But in response to concerns voiced by Leahy and Democratic Sens. Dick Durbin of Illinois and Tom Harkin of Iowa, Johnson insisted that the kids still would be protected.

“A request for discretion, as long as I’m secretary, means a request for the ability to do the right thing,” he said.

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