WASHINGTON, D.C. – The scramble to fix the crisis at the border was well underway Tuesday.
House Republicans introduced a watered-down emergency-funding package to deal with the influx of unaccompanied minors, and Democrats called a last-ditch meeting to rally support for increased funding.
The Republican package is well below the $3.7 billion that President Barack Obama requested from Congress and would instead provide $659 million to address thousands of unaccompanied children who have crossed the border.
After the House Republican’s announcement, House Democrats held an ad-hoc meeting with immigration-reform advocates and Central American immigrant children.
Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Arizona., said that was an attempt to humanize the situation before Congress leaves town.
During the meeting 12-year-old, Mayeli Hernandez, a Honduran immigrant, wept as she told the congressional members she felt she had no choice but to flee the violence in her country.
“On two separate occasions, I saw someone kill another person, and it was so ugly to see the blood on the ground,” Hernandez said through a translator.
According to the Pew Research Center, 5,300 of the 13,008 unaccompanied girls younger than 18 apprehended at the border this year are from Honduras. The girls are just a part of the influx of 57,000 unaccompanied children fleeing poverty, unemployment and violence.
Nicole Mosher, executive director of Compañeros: Four Corners Immigrant Resource Center in Durango, said she has had multiple people within the community call and ask if Durango has plans to house immigrant children. While there aren’t plans yet, Mosher hopes that the president will step in with an executive order if Congress doesn’t find a fix before August.
“Many of the people in our community see this as a humanitarian crisis,” Mosher said. “We can’t just send these kids back when they are coming here for asylum.”
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Kentucky, said the bill introduced Tuesday would “keep a tight rein on taxpayer dollars” while funneling the majority of the money to Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Almost $200 million would go to providing temporary housing for unaccompanied minors.
The bill also would alter a 2008 anti-trafficking law to expedite the process of deporting children without a hearing unless they make an appeal to stay before an immigration judge.
That change likely will be hard for Democrats to accept.
“I think we are missing the point. We are talking about children fleeing violence, fleeing for their safety and lives,” Grijalva said.
With 72 hours until the August recess, the House is expected to vote Thursday on the immigration bill.
email@example.com. Mary Bowerman is a graduate student at American University in Washington, D.C., and an intern for The Durango Herald.