Washington — Tackling what he has called a humanitarian crisis, President Barack Obama on Tuesday asked Congress for $3.7 billion to cope with a tide of minors from Central America who are illegally crossing the U.S. southern border, straining immigration resources and causing a political firestorm in Washington.
The White House says the money would help increase the detention, care and transportation of unaccompanied children, help speed the removal of adults with children by increasing the capacity of immigration courts, and would increase prosecution of smuggling networks. The money would also increase surveillance at the U.S. border and help Central American countries repatriate border-crossers sent back from the United States.
Obama requested the money in a letter to House Speaker John Boehner Tuesday. The request did not include proposals for legislative changes that the White House wants. But Obama said he still will seek such changes, including providing the secretary of Homeland Security additional authority to use discretion to speed up the removal of children from countries like Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Obama said he also wants increased penalties for individuals who smuggle vulnerable migrants, such as children.