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Rep. Tom Cole: White House not telling truth about illegal minors

by Chris Casteel Modified: July 8, 2014 at 1:10 pm •  Published: July 8, 2014
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Rep. Tom Cole, R-Moore, said Tuesday he would listen to the Obama administration’s arguments for needing nearly $4 billion to deal with the current wave of illegal aliens.

“I recognize that we have a real problem,” said Cole, a key member of the House Appropriations Committee. “What I have to know is that the administration has the will to deal with it.”

Cole, whose district is home to one of the military bases with an emergency shelter for unaccompanied alien minors, said the administration isn’t being straight with the American people about what caused the wave or what will be done with the children.

The administration continues to blame a law that makes it harder to deport illegal minors from Central America, Cole said, even though the law has been on the books for nearly six years and the influx of minors from Central America just began in the last couple of years.

“It’s largely a phenomenon of the last two years when the president started playing around with the immigration laws” through executive orders, Cole said.

And Cole said he doesn’t believe statements made Monday by White House press secretary Josh Earnest that most of the minors won’t be able to stay in the United States.

“I’ve talked to administration officials who tell me exactly the opposite,” Cole said in an interview Tuesday morning.

Many of the children are expected to find “sponsors” in the United States _ including relatives _ that will allow them to stay in this country. Cole said  that if a sponsor comes forward for a minor child and the sponsor is here illegally, both should be deported.

Cole’s district includes Fort Sill, the U.S. Army post that is now housing more than 1,000 of the minors.

U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-Tulsa, has been demanding open access to the facility and has criticized the administration for not allowing him to visit when he wants. He also has blasted the ground rules for a media tour of the facility scheduled for Thursday; no recordings, questions or interaction will be allowed.

Cole said the administration has not been open about the situation from the very beginning. Cole and other Oklahoma officials weren’t even told that Fort Sill was going to be one of the military bases housing minors until Cole’s office began checking out rumors circulating in Lawton, the town adjacent to Fort Sill.

The situation is destabilizing the countries from which the children are coming and empowering the criminal organizations being paid to transport the children, Cole said.

He said that if a sponsor comes forward for a minor child and the sponsor is here illegally, both should be deported.

 

Here is a White House fact sheet on the request for money to deal with the influx of minors:

FACT SHEET: Emergency Supplemental Request to Address the Increase in Child and Adult Migration from Central America in the Rio Grande Valley Areas of the Southwest Border

While overall rates of apprehensions across our Southwest border remain at near historic lows, apprehensions and processing of children and individuals from Central America crossing the border in the Rio Grande Valley have continued at high rates. The Administration continues to address this urgent humanitarian situation with a whole-of government response which includes efforts by the Departments of Homeland Security (DHS) and Justice (DOJ) to deploy additional enforcement resources — including immigration judges, Immigration and Customs Enforcement attorneys, and asylum officers — to focus on individuals and adults traveling with children from Central America and entering without authorization across the Southwest border. Part of this surge includes detention of adults traveling with children, as well as expanded use of the Alternatives to Detention program, to avoid a more significant humanitarian situation. DHS is working to secure additional space that satisfies applicable legal and humanitarian standards for detention of adults with children. This surge of resources means that cases are processed fairly and as quickly as possible, ensuring the protection of asylum seekers and refugees while enabling the prompt removal of individuals who do not qualify for asylum or other forms of relief from removal. Finally, to attack the criminal organizations and smuggling rings that are exploiting these individuals, agencies are surging law enforcement task forces in cooperation with our international partners, with a focus on stepped-up interdiction and prosecution.

Under the President’s direction, the Administration also continues to work closely with our Mexican and Central American partners to address the root causes of this problem, stem the flow of adults and unaccompanied children into the United States, and expand capacity to receive and reintegrate repatriated migrants. Following the Vice President’s June 20 meeting with leaders from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico, to discuss our shared responsibility for promoting security, these countries committed to working together and with the United States to address the immediate humanitarian situation as well as the long-term challenges. Secretary Kerry met with leaders from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras on July 1st in Panama, and in his remarks highlighted some of the challenges driving migration, the importance of applying the law and combating misinformation, and working together with Central American partners to address these challenges. We are working with our Central American partners, nongovernmental organizations, and other influential voices to send a clear message to potential migrants so that they understand the significant dangers of this journey and to make clear that they are not eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals process or earned citizenship provisions that are part of comprehensive immigration reform pending in the Congress. As part of this effort, we have also committed foreign assistance resources to improve capacity of these countries to receive and reintegrate returned individuals and address the underlying security and economic issues that cause migration.

While the Administration is working across all of these channels, we are eager to work with the Congress to ensure that sufficient resources and authorities exist to continue our efforts. That is why today the President is requesting a $3.7 billion supplemental appropriation focused on:

• Deterrence, including increased detainment and removal of adults with children and increased immigration court capacity to speed cases
• Enforcement, including enhanced interdiction and prosecution of criminal networks, increased surveillance, and expanded collaborative law enforcement task force efforts
• Foreign Cooperation, including improved repatriation and reintegration, stepped-up public information campaigns, and efforts to address the root causes of migration
• Capacity, including increased detainment, care, and transportation of unaccompanied children
The supplemental appropriation broken down below would fund activities at the Departments of, Homeland Security (DHS), Justice (DOJ), State and other International Programs, and Health and Human Services (HHS).

The Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement – $1.1 billion
This proposal would provide the Department of Homeland Security a total of $1.1 billion for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Of this total:
• $116 million would pay for transportation costs associated with the significant rise in apprehensions of unaccompanied children;
• $109 million would provide for immigration and customs enforcement efforts, including expanding the Border Enforcement Security Task Force program, doubling the size of vetted units in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, and expanding investigatory activities by ICE Homeland Security Investigations; and
• $879 million would pay for detention and removal of apprehended undocumented adults traveling with children, expansion of alternatives to detention programs for these individuals, and additional prosecution capacity for adults with children who cross the border unlawfully.

The Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection – $433 million
This proposal would provide the Department of Homeland Security a total of $433 million for Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Of this total:
• $364 million would pay for operational costs of responding to the significant rise in apprehensions of unaccompanied children and families, including overtime and temporary duty costs for Border Patrol agents, contract services and facility costs to care for children while in CBP custody, and medical and transportation service arrangements;
• $29 million for CBP to expand its role in Border Enforcement Security Task Force programs, increasing information-sharing and collaboration among the participating law enforcement agencies combatting transnational crime; and
• $39.4 million to increase air surveillance capabilities that would support 16,526 additional flight hours for border surveillance and 16 additional crews for unmanned aerial systems to improve detection and interdiction of illegal activity.

The Department of Justice – $64 million
This proposal would provide the Department of Justice a total of $64 million. Of the total:
• $45.4 million would be to hire approximately 40 additional immigration judge teams, including those anticipated to be hired on a temporary basis. This funding would also expand courtroom capacity including additional video conferencing and other equipment in support of the additional immigration judge teams. These additional resources, when combined with the FY 2015 Budget request for 35 additional teams, would provide sufficient capacity to process an additional 55,000 to 75,000 cases annually.
• $2.5 million would be used to expand the legal orientation program that provides assistance to adults and custodians of children in the immigration court system.
• $15 million to provide direct legal representation services to children in immigration proceedings.
• $1.1 million to hire additional immigration litigation attorneys to support Federal agencies involved in detainee admission, regulation, and removal actions.

Department of State and Other International Programs – $300 million
This proposal would provide $300 million to the Department of State. Of the total:
• $295 million would support efforts to repatriate and reintegrate migrants to Central America, to help the governments in the region better control their borders, and to address the underlying root causes driving migration, i.e. creating the economic, social, governance, and citizen security conditions to address factors that are contributing to significant increases in migration to the United States. Beyond initial assistance, continued funding for repatriation and reintegration activities will be contingent on sustained progress and cooperation by the Central American countries.
• $5 million would support State Department media campaigns in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, targeting potential migrants and their families. The campaigns will emphasize the dangers of the journey, deliver the message that unaccompanied children are not given a permit to stay in the U.S., and highlight a shared community responsibility for the welfare of unaccompanied children. Funds would also support youth programs to develop skills and leadership among potential migrants.

The Department of Health and Human Services – $1.8 billion
This proposal would provide an additional $1.8 billion for HHS to provide the appropriate care for unaccompanied children, consistent with Federal law, while maintaining services for refugees. With these funds, HHS will have the resources to be able to care for the children currently projected to come into the custody of the Department of Homeland Security while putting in place more stable, cost-effective arrangements for these children going forward. The proposal would also support the ongoing HHS medical response activities for unaccompanied children to address the surge at Border Patrol facilities.

Without supplemental funding, absent undertaking extraordinary measures, agencies will not have sufficient resources to adequately address this situation. HHS will be unable to address the influx of children by securing sufficient shelter capacity with the number of children held at Border Patrol stations continuing to increase, for longer periods of time. Going forward, HHS will be unable to set-up more stable, cost-effective arrangements for these children, Border Patrol agents will have to be re-assigned to child care duties from their border security work, and ICE will lack the resources needed to sufficiently expand detention and removal capacity for adults with children who cross the border illegally. In addition, without additional funds, DOJ will be unable to keep pace with its growing caseload, leading to longer wait times for those cases already on the docket. And absent dedicated resources in Central American countries, we will not make progress on the larger drivers of this humanitarian crisis. For these reasons, supplemental resources are urgently needed to continue forward with the aggressive response that the Administration has deployed to date.

 

 

by Chris Casteel
Washington Bureau
Chris Casteel began working for The Oklahoman's Norman bureau in 1982 while a student at the University of Oklahoma. After covering the police beat, federal courts and the state Legislature in Oklahoma City, he moved to Washington in 1990, where...
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