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GOP seeks changes to Obama's $3.7 billion border bill

| Sunday, July 13, 2014, 6:42 p.m.
Illegal migrants from Guatemala who are deported from the U.S. arrive at La Aurora airport in Guatemala City, July 10, 2014. A flight carrying 126 illegal Guatemalan migrants, including 90 women and 36 men, arrived at La Aurora airport on Thursday after they were sent back from the U.S., according to immigration authorities. A growing wave of families and unaccompanied minors fleeing Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras are streaming by the thousands into the United States by way of human trafficking networks through Mexico. REUTERS/Pakal Koban (GUATEMALA - Tags: POLITICS SOCIETY IMMIGRATION)

WASHINGTON — Leading congressional Republicans dug in Sunday on their view that President Obama's $3.7 billion emergency spending request to stem the flow of children across the southwest border is too costly and needs to include tougher immigration laws to pass.

Republicans want to enact as part of the spending bill legislation that would expedite the return of unaccompanied minors that have flooded the U.S. border. Since October, more than 40,000 children from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador have turned themselves in at the border. By comparison, in 2011, fewer than 4,000 children from those countries crossed the border.

“The best way to (stem the flow) is for planeloads of these young people to be returning to the country of origin and their families,” Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., told CNN on Sunday. McCain said it will deter families and “coyotes” who solicit money to get children to the border because they will see it's an ineffective way to get their kids into the United States. “Then it will stop — and not before,” he said.

McCain conceded that many of the children are fleeing dangerous conditions at home, but he said those seeking asylum should apply through existing channels. “The fact is that we cannot have an unending stream of children, whether it'd be from Central America or any place else, to come into our country with all of the strains and pressures that it puts on our capabilities.”

In a rare agreement between the president and Republicans on an immigration debate, the administration has indicated support for laws to fast-track deportation proceedings even as leading congressional Democrats oppose it.

What the administration is more likely to resist is GOP efforts to trim the size of his spending request.

Rep. Mike McCaul, R-Texas, who chairs the Homeland Security Committee, told “Fox News Sunday” that Republicans were considering a “very limited” emergency funding bill that would provide money only through the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30. He also said they could attack provisions to tighten border security.

House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Texas, whose panel will write the spending bill, told reporters on Friday that the current tab is “too much,” but he did not say what funding level the committee is considering. House Republicans are expected to discuss the spending bill at a meeting on Tuesday.

The administration is receiving pushback from some leading Democrats who think the president is bowing to GOP demands on deporting the children and not doing enough to address it as a humanitarian crisis.

Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin, D-Ill., told administration officials at a hearing on Thursday that their $15 million request to provide more lawyers to represent the children was “grossly inadequate” and expressed concerns that the children would return to dangerous environments. “What are we returning them to?” he said.

Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, likewise criticized the White House. “I have a problem with this administration. On the one hand, they say we want to send kids back as soon as possible. Then they turn around and say, well, but these kids are escaping violence and drugs and sexual abuse and gangs. How do you reconcile those two?” he said. “These kids need to be protected. They need to have (Health and Human Services) protect them and care for them and give them every meaningful right to apply for asylum.”

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