Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said Friday that Republicans will not grant President Barack Obama his request for $3.7 billion to deal with the flood of immigrant children until clear steps are taken to stop the flood.
"I have talked to a number of my colleagues who are Republican senators. We will not agree to the additional funds, the $3.7 billion — most of which is to care for these children and provide the facilities — until we can assure the American people that it's going to stop," McCain said in Arizona. "And unfortunately, that is not in the president's request."
U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., predicted on Friday that President Barack Obama would not see Congress pass his $3.7 billion border bill until the border is secure. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
McCain and other Republicans have said Congress needs to change a 2008 law that prohibits officials from quickly deporting immigrant children from non-contiguous countries, like El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Obama administration officials themselves agreed a few weeks ago that this change would help, but have since stopped asking for that change in light of Democratic opposition.
But McCain said it's "unbelievable and unconscionable" that Obama is not asking Congress for this change, and instead has asked only for more money to detain and house the more than 57,000 children that have crossed into the United States this year.
"Incredibly, the President of the United States did not include a request to repeal the provision of the law which has opened this loophole," McCain said.
"Neither I nor the majority of my Republican colleagues will support expenditure of billions of dollars which will only perpetuate the problem, until we have addressed the source of the problem, and that means that repeal of the law that was passed that creates this loophole."
Obama's request for funding is essentially a request to ensure that border officials and the Department of Health and Human Services don't run out of money as they try to detain and house immigrant children. This week, senior officials warned that without the extra money, resources from other parts of the government related to border security may have to be shifted around to deal with the crisis.
McCain and other Republicans are warning that creating more capacity to deal with the surge will only encourage more children to cross, and could lead to requests for even more funding later.
As an alternative, McCain and Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) proposed a bill this week that would eliminate the deportation loophole for Central Americans, and require officials to more closely track illegal immigrants once they arrive.
Border officials have admitted that nearly half of all illegal immigrants given a date for a deportation hearing don't show up for that hearing. For that reason, McCain's bill would require ankle monitors to be worn by illegal immigrants as soon as they enter, a change he defended in Arizona.
"I even would think that even wearing ankle bracelets while they are here in this country would be appropriate," he said.
Democrats have said poor economic conditions in Central America prompted the surge in illegal immigration. But Republicans have said Obama encouraged them to come by continuing to push for legal status for illegal residents.
McCain said the only real way to stop the flood is to deport them all as quickly as possible.
"The only way that this is going to stop is if planeloads of children arrive back in the countries in Central America that they came from, and their parents see that three, four, five, six, seven thousand dollars that they have paid to the human traffickers is wasted," McCain said. "And so, their repatriation has to be expedited."