President Barack Obama will be asking Congress on Tuesday for more resources and more authority for the Department of Homeland Security to deal with the flood of unaccompanied illegal immigrant children, most of whom the White House said will be sent back to Central America.
“We have spoken in clear and candid terms that parents who are considering putting their children in the hands of a criminal with only the promise that that child will be welcomed with open arms in America should not do so,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters Monday.
“The journey is dangerous and the promise is not one that can be fulfilled,” Earnest said.
“If those children do not have a legal basis for remaining in this country, as I mentioned, it’s unlikely those children will be found to qualify for humanitarian relief, they’ll be sent back.”
Obama will speak Tuesday about additional resources that will be needed. Administration officials have said they plan to ask lawmakers for more than $2 billion.
Earnest gave a firmer response than Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, who was pressed on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday to answer whether the United States would send the children back to their home country. Johnson’s only response was: “We need to find more efficient, effective ways to turn this tide around generally, and we’ve already begun to do that.”
Johnson said about 9,700 immigrants were taken into custody in May.
Earnest said the DHS, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Federal Emergency Management Agency is working with the Department of Health and Human Services and the Defense Department.
On Wednesday and Thursday, Obama is scheduled to be in Texas, near the border, to raise money for Democrats at events in Dallas and Austin.
Asked whether he was “concerned about the optics the president can fly to Texas to raise political money but can’t see the urgent humanitarian situation?” Earnest answered that he was not.
“We are not worried about those optics and that’s because the president is very aware of the situation that exists on the southwest border,” Ernest said. “Senior administration officials from the secretary of Homeland Security, the secretary of HHS, top CBP officials, even some senior White House officials have traveled in the last several weeks to the southwest border.”
“Something the administration is committed to is enforcing the law,” Earnest added. “So the president is well aware of what is happening along the southwest border and that is why you’ve seen a range of steps from the authority the president already has to enforce the law. You’ll also see details tomorrow on the request the president will make to Congress to give the administration additional resources to use to address this problem. To my view, and I don’t think this is an unreasonable one, those who share the president’s concern about the situation will be supportive of ensuring that the administration has the resources necessary to deal with the situation.”