Thousands of unaccompanied children — more than 52,000 since October — have been detained by American border patrol agents creating what President Barack Obama has called a humanitarian crisis.
Although the recent surge in immigrants are arriving primarily on the Texas-Mexico border, it has caused an overload in detention centers across the southern United States, including California.
Last week Congressman Jeff Denham (R-Turlock) led a bipartisan delegation to the California-Mexico border to see the situation there firsthand. He will hold a Twitter town hall meeting at 9 a.m. today to discuss the border surge with his 10th district constituents.
“It is clear that the influx of unaccompanied minors needs to be addressed and that the border is not secure,” said Denham. “I have always said border security must be our top priority. It has to be the starting point for top-to-bottom immigration reform to fix our broken system.”
Denham visited the San Ysidro Port of Entry and Chula Vista Area of Responsibility. During the Twitter town hall event, he will provide information about what he saw during his tour and respond to questions from constituents regarding border security, immigration reform and the humanitarian crisis on the border.
Obama appealed to Congress on Tuesday for $3.7 billion in emergency spending to deal with the flood of illegal crossings, largely by people from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.
White House officials are also seeking to change a 2008 law signed by President George W. Bush that guarantees immigration hearings to minors who arrive in this country from noncontiguous countries — anywhere other than Mexico or Canada. The law was pushed to combat sex trafficking and give young people new protections.
In the current crisis, it's resulted in children from Central American countries being released to family members or into foster care while they face long waits for court hearings they may never attend.
Kids from Mexico, by contrast, are screened by Border Patrol agents who can decide to send them back unless determining they have a fear of return that merits additional screening. The administration wants to be able to treat Central American children in much that same way, though officials say they want to retain the children's right to due process.
The White House spending request includes $1.1 billion for the Department of Homeland Security to help deter border-crossers and increase enforcement; $433 million for Customs and Border Protection to cover overtime costs and for additional facilities to detain unaccompanied children while they are in Border Patrol custody; $64 million for the Department of Justice to hire immigration judges, and $1.8 billion for the Department of Health and Human Services for the care of unaccompanied children, including shelter and medical care.