President Barack Obama sent a letter to congressional leadership Monday detailing requests he will make for emergency funding to support measures to combat the humanitarian crisis on the U.S. border with Mexico. These plans include “a sustained border security surge.”
In his letter, Obama described the crisis, which he said has involved “a significant rise in apprehensions and processing of children and individuals from Central America who are crossing into the United States in the Río Grande Valley areas of the Southwest border.” This influx of Central American migrants has led to crowded, dangerous conditions at U.S. detention centres. Obama also noted the migrants, many of whom are children, “are subject to violent crime, abuse, and extortion” on their “perilous journey” to the U.S.
To combat this, Obama said he will ask Congress to fund five different things.
Firstly, he called for “an aggressive deterrence strategy focused on the removal and repatriation of recent border crossers.” Obama also said he will push for the “border security surge,” which he said would involve “enhanced domestic enforcement, including interdiction and prosecution of criminal networks.” Additionally, Obama said he wants to have a “significant increase” in the number of immigration judges and “corresponding facilities to expedite the processing of cases involving those who crossed the border in recent weeks.” Obama will also try to launch “a stepped up effort to work with our Central American partners to repatriate and reintegrate migrants returned to their countries, address the root causes of migration, and communicate the realities of these dangerous journeys.” Lastly, Obama said he will seek funding for “the resources necessary to appropriately detain, process, and care for children and adults.”
Along with listing measures he will ask Congress to fund, Obama identified other measures he might take as part of “a fully effective Government-wide strategy” to address the influx of migrants. He said these steps could include giving the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security additional authority “to exercise discretion in processing the return and removal of unaccompanied minor children from non-contiguous countries” and “increasing penalties for those who smuggle vulnerable migrants, like children.”
In addition to describing his administration’s future plans to address the crisis along the border, in his letter, Obama outlined steps the government has already taken to address the situation. He pointed out DHS and the Department of Justice have already begun “deploying additional enforcement resources — including immigration judges, Immigration and Customs Enforcement attorneys, and asylum officers — to focus on individuals and adults travelling with children from Central America and entering without authorization across the Southwest border.” Obama also said the DHS is “working to secure additional space that satisfies applicable legal and humanitarian standards for detention of adults with children.” Lastly, Obama said the government is “surging law enforcement task forces in cooperation with our international partners” in order to fight criminal smuggling rings that are leading migrants across the border.
Obama also described diplomatic efforts his administration has undertaken with the leaders of Mexico and Central American countries to communicate with officials about resources they need “to stem the flow of migrants taking the dangerous trip to the United States.” He said the government has also attempted to “working with our Central American partners, nongovernmental organisations, and other influential voices to send a clear message to potential migrants so that they understand the significant dangers of this journey and what they will experience in the United States.”
Some observers have attributed the increased influx of Central American migrants across the U.S. border to mistaken perceptions the Obama administration’s immigration policies mean children will be allowed to stay in the country. In his letter Obama suggested this was due to “misinformation that is being spread by smugglers.” Others have pegged the influx to crime and gang violence in Central America.
Read Obama’s full letter to congressional leadership below.
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