By Justin Sink - 08/08/14 02:50 PM EDT
The White House is concerned the declining number of child migrants being caught crossing the U.S.-Mexico border might be only a temporary dip due to the weather, press secretary Josh Earnest said Friday.
The administration says it has seen a “downward trend” over the past six weeks of children crossing the border. Last month, officials said that average apprehensions had been more than halved from June.
But, the White House argued, that trend does not validate congressional inaction on supplemental legislation that would surge immigration judges and attorneys to the border to help deal with the flood of migrants.
“Historical trends also indicate that as the weather cools and as we enter the fall and winter season, traditionally, the rates of apprehension — the rates of those who attempt to illegally enter the country go back up,” Earnest said. “And the volatility in these numbers is something that the administration remains concerned about.”
Earnest said that apprehensions still outpaced where they were “a year ago or even two years ago” and were “taking place at an elevated rate.”
“Congress left town for their August recess without acting on the specific request that was forwarded by this administration for additional resources, but we're hopeful that when they return, they will take steps to provide those resources,” Earnest said.
House Republicans last week passed a $659 million emergency supplemental border bill — significantly less than the $3.7 billion requested by the White House. The legislation also included provisions making it easier to deport children from Central America, after conservative members of the party balked at House leadership's initial bill, requiring members to stay in town an additional day before returning home for the August recess.
A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) accused the president of being “completely AWOL” on the issue and failing to rally the Democratically controlled Senate to pass a bill.
“Senate Democrats have left town without acting on his request for a border supplemental,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said.
But Earnest suggested that voters could punish Republicans over the inaction.
“As a result of the media attention around the more recent problems at the border, I think we’ve seen — and I think some of the public polling that your news organizations have done on this issue — indicates that there is broader awareness among the American electorate that this is a significant problem,” he said. “That also means there is a broader awareness among the American electorate that Congress has done nothing to solve this problem.”
But recent surveys suggest the crisis might also be hurting the president. A CBS News poll released earlier this week found that just 31 percent of Americans approved of the president's handling of immigration reform — a record low.