Obama Requests Nearly $4 Billion In Funds To Speed Deportations

Jul 8, 2014
Originally published on July 8, 2014 4:13 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

It's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block. Today, a big request from the White House to Congress - President Obama is asking for an emergency appropriation of $3.7 billion to deal with the influx of migrant children illegally crossing the border. The administration would use the money to speed up deportations for children who have no legal basis to stay in the U.S. This afternoon, our colleague and Morning Edition host, Steve Inskeep, talked about this with Cecilia Munoz, the White House Domestic Policy Adviser.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

CECILIA MUNOZ: Well, it's a matter of making sure that we honor the humanitarian claims that some children might come forward with. That means having properly trained asylum officers available to talk to the children to see if they have credible claims and moving those cases forward expeditiously, but it also means being willing in the cases where folks - kids get on the other side of that process and they don't qualify, we have to be willing to return them and we have to do that cooperation with their home countries.

BLOCK: And you can hear more of that interview tomorrow on Morning Edition. Now NPR's national political correspondent, Mara Liasson, joins us from the White House. And Mara, what does the administration propose to do about the tens of thousands of children from Central America who have been turning themselves in to border officials?

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Well, it wants Congress to give it more resources, to pay for border enforcement, more immigration courts, more judges so they can determine if they can stay or not. Because of that 2008 law, there's a longer and more complex legal process for kids from Central America than kids from Mexico. And today, the administration is also asking Congress to give it more discretion to treat children from different countries in the same way.

Now Congress might not want to give the President any of this. Today the House Judiciary Committee Chairman, Bob Goodlatte, said the president created this disaster by not enforcing the border and not creating enough consequences for illegal immigration. He says the president's asking for too much money to process the children and not enough for deterrents. The problem, of course, is these are not kids sneaking into the country past border officials - they're coming up to the border and surrendering to border officials in the mistaken belief that they'll be granted asylum.

BLOCK: Now Mara, you mentioned the 2008 law. This was a law signed by then-President George W. Bush at the end of his term. Is the Obama administration asking Congress to change that law?

LIASSON: No, they're not asking explicitly. They would like the law to be changed, but they're not asking Congress to do that. They don't want to wait around to see if Congress would change it. And explicitly asking for legislation - new legislation - that would make it easier to deport more kids is not something that the administration's allies in the immigration reform community want to hear.

BLOCK: Right, well, how does this play into the larger political debate about immigration reform?

LIASSON: Well, the president is in that very familiar place, whip side (***7:12***) by both sides. He's being accused by Republicans of causing the crisis by not securing the border. He's being accused by immigration reform advocates for pursuing a harsh deportation policy. And there is an immediate political story too, because today the president is going to Texas on a previously scheduled trip for fundraising. Republicans including Texas Gov. Rick Perry were calling on him to go to the Texas border to view this crisis firsthand. The White House felt that was totally political because his opponents just wanted a picture they could use against him, so he offered to meet with Rick Perry. But Perry didn't want a tarmac handshake, he thought that was a political photo op trap. So they finally agreed that the two leaders - Gov. Perry and President Obama would meet in Dallas, where the president is going to be talking to a bunch of local officials and faith leaders about this crisis.

BLOCK: OK, NPR's national political correspondent, Mara Liasson. Mara, thanks.

LIASSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.