A group of House Republicans on Wednesday will call for sending the National Guard to the southern border, where a months-long surge in illegal immigration has flooded Texas with thousands of children from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.
House Speaker John Boehner last month assigned seven GOP lawmakers the task of recommending how to deal with the recent border surge, and the working group presented the plan to the party's rank and file in a closed door meeting Wednesday.
As many expected, their list includes a call for making a change to the 2008 law in order to allow faster deportations of immigrant children to countries other than Mexico or Canada. The recommendations also call for establishing "repatriation centers" in the home countries of immigrant children and families.
But GOP aides say the group wants deportations to happen “in a humane way,” and will not recommend eliminating court hearings for the children who are here. Instead, the plan endorses hiring more judges in order to expedite the process.
"Our focus has been to ensure the safety of the children and it has remained a top priority throughout this process," Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas, who heads the GOP working group, said Wednesday. "In our personal meetings with the presidents of Honduras and Guatemala they both stated that they wanted their children back, and we believe that is in the best interest of all the countries involved in this crisis. We look forward to working with these countries as they prepare to receive their children back."
The National Guard, according to the plan, would "assist Border Patrol in the humanitarian care and needs of the unaccompanied minors," which Granger said would allow the patrol "to focus on their primary mission," of securing the border.
On Monday, Texas Gov. Rick Perry announced he plans to send up to 1,000 National Guard troops to the border to protect against drug traffickers and other criminals who may try to enter the country as part of the recent surge and to help stop immigrant children before they cross the border.
The working group’s list of recommendations also call for:
• Allowing the U.S. Border Patrol access to 4.3 million acres of protected federal lands that border Mexico. Republicans have argued that illegal immigration and drug activity thrive on the land because because border authorities are prohibited from driving motorized vehicles or building roads.
• Working to help Mexico secure its southern border, where immigrants are entering illegally from Central America before traveling north to Texas. It's a plan championed by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., who is also a member of the working group.
Absent from the list is a call for the president to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which some conservatives believe motivated the thousands of children to venture to the United States.
The program, put in place by President Obama through an executive order, allows people who arrived here as children to remain here for two years. It's a divisive issue for the GOP, with some Republicans, including outgoing Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., in support of a similar proposal to legalize people who came here as children illegally.
The working group’s recommendation will not deal with spending.
Instead, Republican appropriators on Wednesday are expected to unveil their response to President Obama’s $3.7 billion request for dealing with the border surge.
According to GOP aides, the House bill will call for much less spending than the president's plan and will focus on border security and expediting deportations. A Senate version, authored by Democrats, funds $2.7 billion, according to those familiar with the plan, and the House is likely to be even lower.
The other members of the working group are Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul and Rep. John Carter, both of Texas; Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida; Rep. Steve Pearce of New Mexico; and Rep. Matt Salmon of Arizona.
Here is the full list of "recommendations and solutions" from the GOP working group:
• Deploy the National Guard to the southern border to assist Border Patrol in the humanitarian care and needs of the unaccompanied minors. This will free up the Border Patrol to focus on their primary mission.
• Prohibit the Secretary of the Interior or the Secretary of Agriculture from denying or restricting U.S. Customs and Border Protection activities on federal land under their respective jurisdictions.
• Require a Department of Homeland Security strategy and implementation plan to gain operational control of the southwest border.
• Establish independent third-party commission to develop border security metrics as a means to accurately gauge progress on border security.
• Establish border security in Central American countries and Mexico.
• Establish repatriation centers in originating countries in order to facilitate the return of family units and unaccompanied minors.
• Deploy aggressive messaging campaigns in originating countries and the U.S. to dispel immigration myths, clarify that individuals will be deported on arrival and advise on the dangers and legal penalties of traveling through Mexico to enter the United States illegally.
• Mandate the detention of all family units apprehended at the border with the ultimate goal of processing family units 5-7 days. Congress must continue stringent oversight to ensure this mandate is being met.
• Amend the Trafficking Victims Protection and Reauthorization Act of 2008 so all unaccompanied minors are treated the same as Mexicans for the purpose of removals. This would require unaccompanied children who do not wish to be voluntarily returned to their home country to remain in Department of Health and Human Services custody while they await an expedited immigration court hearing that must occur not more than 7 days after they are screened by child welfare officials.
• Deploy additional judge teams and temporary judges to expedite the hearing of asylum and credible fear claims. Congress must address the occurrences of fraud in our asylum system. Baseless claims crowd the immigration court system and delay processing for those with legitimate claims. The standard under current law that allows an alien to show a "credible fear of persecution" needs to be examined and addressed to ensure a fraud-free system moving forward. In addition, criminal aliens and criminal gang members should not receive asylum.
• Establish tough penalties for those engaged in human smuggling, including the smuggling of unaccompanied minors by strengthening penalties for human smugglers and those who assist them.
• Increase law enforcement operations domestically and in originating countries to disrupt and dismantle transnational criminal organizations and encourage originating countries to pass strict laws against human smuggling.