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Obama administration slams House version of border bill, promises veto

The Obama administration threatened to veto the legislation proposed by the House to address the border crisis.
By Gabrielle Levy Follow @gabbilevy Contact the Author   |   July 30, 2014 at 4:30 PM
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WASHINGTON, July 30 (UPI) -- After sitting on the sidelines for several weeks as Congress debated legislation to handle the border crisis, the White House stepped forward Wednesday to slam the House version of a supplemental bill as a "patchwork" of "arbitrary and unrealistic demands."

In a statement released Wednesday, the Obama administration threatened to veto the legislation introduced Tuesday in the House, which would allocate just a fraction of the $3.7 billion in funds it requested to increase the ability for agencies to process and care for the thousands of Central American children streaming across the southern border.

"Republicans have had more than a year to comprehensively fix the nation's broken immigration system, but instead of working toward a real, lasting solution, Republicans released patchwork legislation that will only put more arbitrary and unrealistic demands on an already broken system," the statement from the Executive Office of the President said.

The $659 million bill offers $405 million toward increased law enforcement and processing of the children, while providing just $197 million to provide shelter and care while they are in government custody, less than 11 cents on the dollar from the administration's request.

It requires unaccompanied children detained at the border to have their deportation hearings within a week, a provision the administration says will "undercut due process for vulnerable children which could result in their removal to life threatening situations in foreign countries" and "could create backlogs that could ultimately shift resources away from priority public safety goals, like deporting known criminals."

The administration also expressed displeasure over the omission of aid to Israel for its Iron Dome missile defense system that has been extremely successful in mitigating casualties from the hundreds of rockets fired from Gaza toward Israeli population centers.

Nearly 60,000 unaccompanied children, mostly from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras have entered the U.S. this year alone, seeking refuge from intensifying violence and poverty. That figure has doubled since last year, a jump many Republicans have blamed on misinformation over the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which grants some undocumented immigrants relief from deportation.

While most lawmakers agree something must be done to deal with the crisis before Congress departs Thursday for August recess, the parties are sharply divided on how to do so.

Most Republicans, and some Democrats, oppose increased funding without changes to a 2008 anti-trafficking law that means children who turn up at the border sometimes stay in the U.S. for years before seeing an immigration judge.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, expressed optimism that the lower chamber's bill could pass, but pressure from Democrats who have called for legislative changes to be dealt with separately, and Republicans who have demanded ramped-up deportations, could make passage a heavy lift. And even if the bill were successful in the House, it would surely fail in the Senate in its current form.

Meanwhile, the Senate opened formal debate on its $2.7 billion legislation Wednesday, with 11 Republicans joining Democrats in moving the bill forward.

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