Congressional lawmakers signaled Thursday that a $3.7 billion spending measure to cope with the immigration surge at the border will include a provision allowing speedier deportations of thousands of minors.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, told reporters he believes the legislation should include language to change a 2008 law that prevents the United States from deporting illegal immigrant children back to home countries that do not border the United States.
“I think clearly we would probably want the language similar to what we have with Mexico,” Boehner said, echoing a statement from a group of House lawmakers he has tasked with reviewing President Obama's plan.
Boehner said he believes Obama also wants the law changed.
Democrats are not objecting to such a move, increasing the likelihood it will become part of the deal.
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Thursday that while she does not personally agree with the provision, it should not hold up the legislation.
“It’s not a deal breaker,” Pelosi said.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., avoided outright rejection of the GOP provision, telling reporters, “I'm not going to block anything,” adding, “We'll see what the House does ... and act accordingly.”
Republicans are balking at Obama's request, which was initially supposed to be $2 billion. Many want to pay for the legislation with cuts elsewhere in the budget and almost all in the GOP are demanding stronger border enforcement spending than what Obama is promising.
Nearly half of the money would be allocated to the Health and Human Services Department to provide food, legal aid and other services to the migrant children.
Changing the 2008 law, however, tops the GOP wish list.
The provision, signed by George W. Bush, was aimed at curbing child sex trafficking by ensuring children are seen by an immigration judge. But the law is now preventing deportation of nearly 52,000 children who have crossed illegally into Texas since October.
Immigration activists want the children to be granted refugee status and have pressured Obama not to alter the 2008 law, which entitles children from noncontiguous states to a hearing and thus a much longer stay here.
Obama initially said he would request Congress make the change to the law, but then backed down facing pressure from immigration groups.
Boehner said he believes the House should act on the bill in July, but said “what that action should be, has yet to be determined.”
Border security will be a top priority, he said, suggesting there will be other, significant changes to Obama’s request.
“I can tell you this, though,” Boehner said. “We're not giving the president a blank check.”