Rep. James Clyburn (S.C.), the third-ranking House Democrat, on Thursday signaled that he’s open to changing a 2008 trafficking law that would make it easier for officials to send back migrant children who have entered the U.S. illegally.
In an interview on MSNBC’s “The Daily Rundown,” Clyburn suggested the law could be tweaked to close loopholes that human smuggling gangs had taken advantage of and to address humanitarian concerns.
“So those kinds of modifications, I think, need to be made so the law can address humanitarian issues, such as that which we have now with these children,” he continued.
Clyburn did not elaborate on the exact changes he would support, and did not say whether he would back a bipartisan proposal from Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) that would change the 2008 law to make it easier to send back child migrants from Central America.
Clyburn’s comments, though, mark a sharp break with most congressional Democrats who oppose the Cornyn-Cuellar bill, despite the White House and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson calling for changes to give them more flexibility to deport the new migrants.
The Obama administration has requested $3.7 billion in emergency funds to deal with the crisis at the border, but House Republicans say any money will be tied to changes in the 2008 law.
Clyburn suggested he would be open to changes to the 2008 law if Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) allowed the House to consider the comprehensive Gang of Eight immigration reform bill the Senate passed in June 2013 and a separate bipartisan House bill reported out of committee in May 2013. Boehner repeatedly said last year that the House would not take up the Senate immigration bill.
House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) and Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) have introduced border security legislation that would direct the DHS to develop a comprehensive strategy to gain and maintain control of the border.
“So we could do this within 24 hours, if only the speaker would allow that Senate fix — comprehensive fix — to move forward with the McCaul-Thompson proposal and with an additional amendment, which I would gladly co-sponsor with any Republican to fix whatever we think may be wrong with the 2008 law,” Clyburn said.
“We can take the McCaul-Thompson amendment and really move something to the floor of the House, that I would gladly be a part of,” Clyburn added.
Asked if Congress could pass a border fix or reforms to the Department of Veterans Affairs before the August recess, Clyburn said that’s up to Boehner.
“Well, I would hope we would not go home before doing something, but that's the Speaker's call,” he said. “We would gladly stay here and get this done if that's what the speaker would have us do. But the ball is in Speaker Boehner's court on both these big issues.”