Two Texas lawmakers announced the legislation Monday to speed the removal of tens of thousands of Central American kids from the U.S.-Mexico border, as Washington groped for a solution to the mounting crisis.
Lawmakers, Senator John Cornyn - R and Rep. Henry Cuellar – D, would allow U.S. Border Patrol agents to turn many of the kids around quickly at the border. Under current law, the youths stay here, potentially for years, while awaiting a hearing in the backlogged immigration courts.
The bill comes as the White House is trying to get Congress to sign off on a $3.7 billion emergency spending request to deal with the situation at the border by adding more immigration judges and detention facilities, among other steps.
Republicans have made clear they won't agree to such spending without policy changes along the lines of what Cornyn and Cuellar are seeking, and the White House has indicated support for some such changes.
The Cornyn-Cuellar bill would allow Central American kids to be treated the same as those from Mexico, whose people can be sent back over the border quickly unless they are able to persuade Border Patrol agents that they have a fear of return, meriting further screening.
White House and Obama administration officials have said they support this change, but have yet to propose it officially. Spokesman Josh Earnest said the White House welcomes "constructive engagement from Republicans" but will wait to see the actual legislation.