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Quick action on immigrant children is put off

Obama still will seek $2b to deal with border crisis

Members of a Maryland immigrant rights group marched through Lafayette Park in Washington, D.C. on Monday.Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press

WASHINGTON — President Obama has decided to hold off on seeking new legal authority to send unaccompanied migrant children back home faster, congressional sources said Monday.

The move follows criticism from immigration advocates, who said the administration’s planned approach was too harsh.

It was confirmed Monday by two congressional aides who spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of a formal announcement.

Obama intends to ask Congress on Tuesday for more than $2 billion in emergency spending to deal with the children who have been arriving by the thousands from Central America.

For now he will not ask Congress to change the law to allow him to send the youths back home faster. White House officials said the president intends to eventually ask for such authority.


Earlier Monday, the White House had said most unaccompanied children arriving at the US-Mexico border are unlikely to qualify for humanitarian relief that would keep them from being sent back to their home countries.

The pointed warning came as the White House finalized a spending request to Congress detailing the additional resources Obama wants in order to hire more immigration judges and open additional detention facilities to deal with the border crisis.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said that although the administration will allow the immigration review process to take place, officials so far do not expect many of the children arriving at the border to be able to eventually stay in the United States.

It is unclear how quickly the process will unfold. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson acknowledged Sunday that such immigration proceedings might face long delays, and he said that the floods of unaccompanied minors crossing the border creates a legal and humanitarian dilemma for the United States.

‘‘Our border is not open to illegal migration, and we are taking a number of steps to address it, including turning people around faster,’’ Johnson said Sunday.


At the same time, he said, the administration is ‘‘looking at ways to create additional options for dealing with the children in particular, consistent with our laws and our values.’’

Most of the children are from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, where they face spikes in violence and poverty.

Johnson said the US government is trying to send the message that all people who enter the country illegally will face deportation proceedings eventually.