By Mike Lillis - 07/08/14 04:20 PM EDT
The migrant children amassing by the thousands at the Southern border of the United States should be deported except in “extraordinary circumstances,” Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Tuesday.
A number of liberal Democrats are calling on Congress to reform its deportation laws to allow more of those youths to remain in the United States as an escape from dangerous conditions in their home countries, particularly Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.
“We have an immediate humanitarian crisis that confronts this country. We also have a crisis in terms of: this country cannot absorb, nor should it, a limitless number of people, particularly children, who want to come across our border,” Hoyer said Tuesday during his weekly press briefing in the Capitol.
“Clearly we have to indicate that we cannot give these children sanctuary except under extraordinary circumstances,” he added. “Obviously we have refugee status, and protective status, for people. But just a wholesale coming over the border ... is not sustainable in the United States.”
The comments came just hours after President Obama asked Congress to approve $3.7 billion in emergency funding to address the border crisis, including $1.8 billion to provide “appropriate care” for the children and $1.1 billion to beef up security at the border.
Hoyer emphasized that he hasn’t examined Obama's proposal thoroughly, but strongly suggested he supports the package, which is not paid for by changes elsewhere in the budget.
“My basic response is [that] this is a reasonable request and that the House of Representatives and the United States Senate will respond positively to it. And I hope that's the case,” he said. “Obviously, we have a responsibility to look at that to see if it's a correct number.”
If the early response from some top Republicans is any indication, however, there's a tough fight looming over the fate of the package.
The office of Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) issued a statement Tuesday calling for the deployment of National Guard troops to address the border crisis — a strategy Obama's proposal “does not address,” spokesman Michael Steel said.
Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, was much more critical. He charged Obama with creating the border crisis and then asking Congress “to use billions of taxpayer dollars without accountability or a plan in place to actually stop [it].”
“Most of the money requested in the President’s supplemental seems geared towards processing Central Americans than stopping the surge itself,” Goodlatte said in a statement. “It’s clear that law enforcement officers at the border need more resources to deal with the border crisis but resources will only be useful if there are consequences for illegal immigration.”
Obama is scheduled to be in Texas Tuesday and Wednesday, to raise campaign funds and push his economic agenda. But the president has no plans to visit the border — an omission that's led to strong criticism from some lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
“I think a visit by the president is reaffirming that the borderlands along the Southwest border are vital and important to this nation,” Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), head of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said Monday in an interview with MSNBC.
Hoyer said Tuesday that it wouldn’t hurt for Obama to visit the border during his trip — “I think that would send a signal of his concern,” he said — but he also defended the administration's response as both serious and thorough.
“Clearly this administration is very, very engaged,” Hoyer said. "Nobody has to go to the border to know that we have a lot of children ... presenting us with a humanitarian issue."
Asked if Congress should reconsider proposals to extend a double-layer fence for much of the length of the Mexican border, Hoyer noted that such a strategy wouldn't help in a situation where immigrants are hoping to be detained.
“Most of these children, as I understand it, are not sneaking across the border,” he said. “Most of these children ... want to be taken into custody.”
White House spokesman Josh Earnest signaled Monday that “most” of the children being detained at the border will ultimately be sent back home.
Hoyer on Tuesday seemed to back that position squarely.
“The United States cannot be expected to give sanctuary to every child in the world that is exposed to danger in their country because of the failure of the country's government, or the local municipality's government, to assist in keeping their own children safe,” Hoyer said.
“We all agree that the border must be secure,” he added. “We cannot have people coming into the United States who are not authorized to do so.”