By Vicki Needham - 06/20/14 11:11 AM EDT
Top House Republicans are urging the Obama administration to speed up deportations at the southwest border amid a massive increase in young unaccompanied children crossing illegally into the United States.
In a letter to President Obama and administration officials on Thursday, the lawmakers said the White House’s immigration policies are encouraging human traffickers to smuggle thousands of children into the country, compounding the crisis.
The letter was sent by House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), along with several subcommittee chairmen, including John Carter (Texas), Frank Wolf (Va.) and Jack Kingston (Ga.). House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (Texas) and Rep. Tom Cole (Okla.) also signed the letter.
The letter is addressed to the president, Secretary of State John Kerry, Attorney General Eric Holder, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson.
The lawmakers urged immediate action from federal agencies and officials to help address the massive influx of children — citing a 267 percent increase in May over the same period last year — from Central America.
“We understand that many of these children are confronted with conflict, discord and economic strife in their countries,” they wrote. “While a partial explanation for this migration surge, we are equally concerned that your Administration’s immigration policies are creating a dangerous incentive for illicit networks to smuggle thousands of children into the United States.”
The lawmakers proposed a wide range of measures to address the problem and said they were providing funding to deal with the challenge.
The letter called for detaining migrant families in appropriate shelters near the southwest border, expediting proceedings to determine whether they are here illegally, and deporting those who are ineligible to remain in the U.S., including those who make false claims.
They also called for placing family members who are ineligible for immigration relief into expedited deportation proceedings and sending deportation notices to other family members living here illegally.
The lawmakers acknowledged that deporting unaccompanied children back to their home countries “will require substantial cooperation and participation from the countries of origin.”
They urged the State Department to work closely with Central American countries and Mexico to deal with the problem and brief on those efforts.
Lastly, they called for public service announcements detailing the dangers of crossing from Central America through Mexico to the United States.
“All these actions comply with the laws of the land, and resources and funding are available to enact them immediately,” they wrote.
The lawmakers said the House fiscal 2015 Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill includes substantially higher funding levels for increased border “needs that were not addressed in your budget request.”
Also, the 2015 State and Foreign Operations appropriations bill restores cuts proposed in the president’s budget request to “improve economic and security conditions, fight gangs and drug cartels, combat human trafficking and enhance border security in Mexico and Central America.”
The letter says that in May the number of adults in the U.S. illegally increased 72 percent. At a rate of $5,000 per child, criminal smuggling groups earned at least $53,230,000 in May.
“These statistics are startling in their magnitude and illustrate the consequences of improper enforcement of our border and immigration laws,” they wrote.
“Moreover, the situation could have frightening consequences both from a humanitarian and a national security perspective.”
Lawmakers called for the Homeland Security Department to brief all committees of jurisdiction immediately on the issue. They said they had requested a briefing from the U.S. Border Patrol on June 17 but were told it will be delayed indefinitely.
"We will not tolerate the withholding of such important and relevant information from Congress, particularly as the House considers appropriations bills that address border security and other funding needs related to this crisis,” they wrote.
Earlier this month, the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on labor and health and human services said it would provide $1.94 billion to cope with surge.