Obama wants $3.7B for border

The administration on Tuesday asked Congress for $3.7 billion in emergency funding to address the wave of child immigrants crossing the Southwest border.

The figure is much more than the $2 billion that was initially reported. The overall package totals $4.3 billion, and also includes a request for $615 million for the Department of Agriculture to fight wildfires in the West. [READ WHITE HOUSE FACT SHEET.]

Administration officials had said the request would be more than $2 billion, but had not suggested it would be nearly double that amount.

The White House cast the request as part of an aggressive response to the border crisis, which has become a political problem for the administration months before the midterm elections. [READ PRESIDENT'S LETTER TO SPEAKER.]

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“If you look at the details, what you see is an embodiment of the incredibly serious commitment that the president has to addressing the situation,” one White House official said on Tuesday. 

The request includes $1.8 billion for the Health and Human Services Department to provide “appropriate care” for the children, who are mostly coming from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

It also includes $1.1 billion for the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The funding would help expand border security task forces and help pay for transportation costs associated with the rise in unaccompanied children.

The package could be controversial with Republicans, who have argued the administration’s policies are encouraging an unprecedented wave of child immigrants. They have pointed to President Obama’s decision not to deport certain children who were brought to the U.S. as illegal immigrants.

Republicans have also pressed Obama to send the National Guard to the border. 

Michael Steel, a spokesman for Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Tuesday that the Appropriations Committee and other members — including the working group on the border crisis led by Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas) — will review the administration's proposal.

"The Speaker still supports deploying the National Guard to provide humanitarian support in the affected areas, which this proposal does not address," Steel said.

At the White House briefing on Tuesday, press secretary Josh Earnest disputed Boehner's concern about border agents, saying that immigrants who are entering the country without authorization "aren't seeking to evade detection" by law enforcement officials. 
 
"Rather, these individuals are seeking out these Border Patrol agents with the expectation they'll be detained and in the hope that they'll be allowed to remain in the country," he said. 

Earnest said he hopes Congress will act "promptly and even expeditiously" on the supplemental.

"With emergency requests like this traditional Congress has not sought to bog it down with a search for offsets," Earnest said. 
 
The administration has acknowledged that many of the people entering the country believe they will be allowed to stay, and has said it is working to counter those misperceptions.

The White House took its toughest line yet Monday, with Obama spokesman Josh Earnest saying most of the children would not be allowed to stay in the United States.

Administration officials have said that many of the new immigrants are entering the United States to escape violence in their home countries.

U.S. officials have been ill-equipped to handle the wave of new immigrants, who have crowded into detention centers. Immigrants have been bussed to other centers in California, where there have been some high-profile protests.

Some of the funding request would be used to speed up immigration trials so that people could be deported more quickly. Many of the new immigrants are released to the care of relatives while they await court hearings.

The request also includes $433 million to go toward additional resources for border agents, including overtime and "temporary duty costs" for border agents as well as an increase in air surveillance capabilities. The Department of Justice would receive $64 million to hire approximately 40 additional immigration judge teams, White House officials say. 

The administration is seeking Congressional discretion on at least one element of the plan: "We are seeking a greater authority for the secretary of Homeland Security to exercise greater discretion that would allow him to more efficiently and effectively remove and repatriate immigrants to this country that don't have a legal basis for remaining here," Earnest said. 

The White House says more than 52,000 unaccompanied children have attempted to cross the border since October. 

The president will travel to Texas on Thursday but administration officials say he will not visit the border while he is there. Instead, he plans to address the issue in a meeting with local leaders. The White House has invited Texas Gov. Rick Perry to also take part in the meeting. 

Speaking about this crisis on Tuesday, White House officials say Obama believes the wave of immigrants is an “urgent humanitarian situation.” The officials said the administration is focused on making sure the children have proper care “but plan to enforce the law.”

Administration officials say they are hopeful Congress will approve the president's request. 

“Our hope and expectation ... is that this will be treated as the urgent humanitarian situation that it is,” one White House official said. 

—This story was posted at 11:36 a.m. and updated at 1:44 p.m.