Obama Plans More Immigrant Detentions
WASHINGTON (CN) - Facing growing calls for action, President Barack Obama on Friday announced a plan to respond to an extraordinary influx of unaccompanied children crossing the southern border.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the federal government will direct more resources to detain undocumented aliens and more immigration prosecutors to handle immigration court hearings.
The White House reiterated that recently arriving children are not eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, enacted in 2012.
"Showing up on the border illegally is not a ticket to this country," Earnest said.
The White House is concerned that criminals in Central America are lying about U.S. immigration laws to "prey on vulnerable people."
"That misinformation is causing some people who are in a rather desperate situation to risk their lives to come to the United States border expecting that they'll be able to stay in this country," Earnest said. "That is simply not true."
More than 47,000 alien minors were arrested in Texas between October 2013 and May this year - a 92 percent increase from the same period a year earlier.
Border Patrol officials predict the number could reach 90,000 by the end of September, according to an agency memorandum .
Under Obama's plan, more family-detention facilities will be built near the border. The federal government will also give $9.6 million to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to spend on existing repatriation centers, immigration-official training and expanded repatriation services.
Another $40 million will be spent in Guatemala on "citizen security" improvements, $25 million in El Salvador for 77 new youth outreach centers and $18.5 million in Honduras on anti-gang community policing and law enforcement efforts.
Another $161.5 million will go to a State Department Central America Regional Security Initiative in all three countries, targeting "security and governance."
White House officials did not specify how the programs will be funded.
Speaker of the House John Boehner on Friday sent a letter to Obama asking for a long-term strategy to secure the border. He called for the National Guard to be deployed to the southern border, saying the Guard is "uniquely qualified to respond to such a humanitarian crisis."
"Children are being handed over to unscrupulous cartels and smugglers and are subjected to untold horrors and violence," Boehner wrote. "The policies of your administration have directly resulted in the belief by these immigrants that once they reach U.S. soil, they will be able to stay here indefinitely."
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott asked the Department of Homeland Security for $30 million in emergency funding for a "surge" of state troopers to respond to the influx.
Abbott said Border Patrol agents are "overwhelmed" and devoting time and resources to the humanitarian aspects of the influx.
"Therefore, we are concerned federal authorities are not available to secure the border and successfully stop cross-border criminal activity," Abbott wrote to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson on June 13.
Abbott's request came days after the ACLU released a scathing report on immigrants being stuck in deplorable conditions in immigration prisons run by private contractors.
The 104-page report, "Warehoused and Forgotten: Immigrants Trapped in Our Shadow Private Prison System," is the result of a multiyear study of private immigration prisons, particularly five prisons in Texas, which are authorized to imprison 13,548 people.
The Bureau of Prisons paid private prison companies $600 million in fiscal year 2013 to run "privately operated institutions," the ACLU said in the report.
The report claimed the companies are paid incentives for holding people in solitary confinement, and that the Bureau of Prisons uses private contracts to avoid scrutiny and duck public records laws.
Terry Burke, executive director of ACLU of Texas, said Friday after the White House's announcement that placing children and families in detention is not "the American way."
"Based on our experience with the T. Don Hutto immigrant detention center, we don't think the world of nations will tolerate such an inhumane policy," Burke said. "Instead of detention and expedited deportation proceedings, the better act on the part of our government would be to bring an army of immigration specialists to the border and start processing these refugees' petitions so that people aren't forced to wait nearly two years, the current average wait."