The measure would spend nearly $660 million on border security measures, including video conferencing capability at more than 300 detention facilities for judges to rule on whether the illegal immigrants should be sent home to Central America or allowed to stay with family members in the U.S.
“That would really speed up the process. It’s innovative,” said Kentucky Republican Rep. Hal Rogers, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.
President Obama has asked for nearly $4 billion to deal with the crisis, while signaling he would scale back deportations and issue more work permits to those who crossed the border illegally.
Meanwhile, Senate Democrats are threatening to attach their amnesty measure to the GOP House bill.
Colorado Republican Rep. Mike Coffman said he is comfortable with the House leadership’s proposal and says lawmakers must find a reasonable path to resolve the situation at the border.
“What I’ve heard so far is very positive. I think it provides a path out,” Coffman said.
Added Colorado Republican Rep. Cory Gardner: “Clearly it’s a humanitarian crisis, and we need to deal with it.”
Still, some fiscally conservative members of the House Republican caucus balked at the reduced price tag attached to the GOP bill.
“I think a majority of members want to do something, even if doing something is wrong,” Rep. Mo Brooks, Alabama Republican told reporters Tuesday.
Brooks said spending $30 million to fly all of the unaccompanied minors to their home countries would solve the influx of juvenile illegal immigrants.
Colorado Democratic Rep. Jared Polis visited the Texas-Mexico border near McAllen on July 18, and says the heart of the problem was not border security but a lack of housing and processing facilities.
“The place is set up for 24 hours or 48 hours. They didn’t have enough space for weeks or months or whatever,” Polis said.
Polis said the number of juvenile illegal immigrants held in the long-term facilities has dwindled from 500 a day to 200 or 300. Polis did not elaborate on whether the reduction is because some have been shipped to other states to await decisions by immigration officials, Congress, or unilateral action by Obama.
Meanwhile, Denver Public Services has asked for a federal grant to house unaccompanied teens and young children accompanied by a family member. Officials in Arapahoe County are also discussing whether to house some of the illegal immigrants to ease the overflow at border facilities.
Polis declined to weigh in on the controversy surrounding the grant request by Denver Public Services.
“Denver is not in my district,” Polis said.