Arizona’s two Republican senators are set to introduce legislation next week to deal with unaccompanied children and others illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border that includes ankle-bracelet monitors for those awaiting deportation hearings, an alternative to President Obama’s request for an additional $3.7 billion to help with the continuing surge of illegal immigrants.
“Today we face a humanitarian crisis along our southern border,” said senior Sen. John McCain. “Congress must act to amend our immigration law and provide law enforcement the ability to return these children home as safely and expeditiously as possible.”
McCain announced plans Thursday with junior GOP Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, two days after Obama asked for the additional billions in emergency spending to hire more immigration judges and asylum officers, build more detention facilities, boost deterrence and enforcement and increase surveillance along the border.
Obama said in a formal letter of request that the money was needed to "address this urgent humanitarian situation."
But by Friday, a key House Republican was suggesting the proposed package was too big to get approved by the GOP-led House.
“It’s too much money,” said Kentucky GOP Rep. Hal Rogers, chairman of the chamber’s Appropriations Committee, which controls spending. “We don’t need it.”
Rogers previously had sounded open to the spending request for more immigration judges, detention facilities, State Department programs and other items. But he now says the committee will look at the parts of Obama’s request that would go for immediate needs and less urgent needs could be handled through Congress’ regular spending bills, though no final action is likely until after the November midterm elections.
There are also concerns about some of the money in the Obama request purportedly going to the Department of Health and Human Services for school and extraordinary health care for the thousands of children who have entered the country illegally in recent months.
McCain and Flake’s proposed Amend the Trafficking Victims Prevention Act also attempts to amend a 2008 law to give the United States more authority to return undocumented children from non-boarding countries such as Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. And it would allow for their “swifter” return, according to the senators.
They say that the U.S. has so far this year repatriated only 890 of the roughly 55,000 unaccompanied minors from Central America who have been apprehended, a number projected to rise to 90,000 by the end of the year, citing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement statistics.
The bill also wants to increase the number of immigration judges to hear cases and create a separate immigration docket to hear the cases of juveniles, citing backlogs in U.S. immigration courts that often result in one- to two-year waits before cases are heard.
The idea of the ankle bracelets was reportedly being considered last month by the administration.
Illinois GOP Sen. Mark Kirk reportedly wants the children to be put through criminal background checks with their embassies to make sure they don’t pose a threat.
“The federal government will only stem the flow of unaccompanied minors to the United States when their parents see us sending them right back,” Flake said. “This legislation gives the administration the flexibility it has requested so it can begin to do just that.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.