Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) will likely refuse to support emergency funding to deal with the border migrant crisis unless the Obama administration ends a 2012 presidential initiative that granted temporary deportation reprieve and legal presence to more than 550,000 undocumented youths.
About 90,000 migrant children — mostly from the Central American countries of Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala — are expected to cross the border through the end of the 2014 fiscal year. Earlier in the month, Obama requested Congress to approve a $3.7 billion emergency funding package that would improve border security, provide housing facilities for children while they’re in custody, and speed up the deportation proceedings.
Interviews with some migrant children show that many kids are not coming to the country because they believe that they will receive some form of immigration benefit. A recent U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency infographic that shows where about 35,000 child migrants apprehended between October 1 and May 14, 2014 found that “many Guatemalan children come from rural areas, indicating that they are probably seeking economic opportunities in the US. Salvadoran and Honduran children, on the other hand, come from extremely violent regions where they probably perceive the risk of traveling alone to the US preferable to remaining at home.” The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) agency found that of 404 children who left Latin America, at least 58 percent of the children cited “international protection needs,” as in they were seeking protection from the international community because their home governments could no longer protect them. A 2012 Vera Institute report found that at least 40 percent of apprehended children are eligible for some form of legal relief from removal. And a Center for American Progress analysis also found that violence is the primary factor during the border surge.
Republican lawmakers like Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) have made it political fodder to blame the Obama administration for being “personally responsible” for “incentivizing” unaccompanied children with the promise of “citizenship for anyone in the world who arrives illegally in the country by a certain age.” But the uptick of child refugees has been ongoing since 2009, long before either the Senate comprehensive immigration bill or the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program came into public awareness.
Children arriving at the border are not eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which is restricted to applicants between the ages of 15 to 31, who established residency in the country before June 15, 2007. The Senate bill would have granted earned citizenship to qualified immigrants who came into the country before December 2011 and fulfilled a number of requirements, like passing background checks, paying a fine, and passing language tests.
Still, Cruz’s stance is consistent with Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), who earlier Wednesday said that Congress should withhold emergency funds until Obama stops the DACA program.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) wouldn’t comment on Cruz’s proposal to end the DACA program during a press conference Thursday morning.
Catherine Frazier, a Cruz spokesperson said to National Review Thursday, “Our bill doesn’t address people who have already received deferred action under DACA.”
A spokesperson for Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) told Talking Points Memo Thursday that he is open to Cruz’s proposal, saying, “Sen. Cornyn has repeatedly said he believes the President’s DACA policy is related to the crisis we’re facing on our southern border. We are happy to take a look at Sen. Cruz’s language when it becomes available.”