A surge in migrants to the U.S. southwest border has prompted President Obama to ask Congress for $2 billion in emergency funding to combat the problem. His request comes one year after a Senate immigration reform bill was passed, and then stalled, in the U.S. House.
Since October, more than 52,000 unaccompanied children have been caught entering the U.S. illegally. Many are fleeing crime and violence fueled by gangs in Guatamala, El Salvador, and Honduras.
The surge of migrants is a big problem for federal border authorities, whose detention centers are not equipped for the influx.
Fourth District Congressman Jim Himes said it's a humanitarian situation that didn't have to happen. "If we had passed comprehensive immigration reform," he said, "that bill had very substantial resources: billions of dollars for additional border security, [and] that means more people on the border. It means us working better with authorities in Mexico and Central American countries to deal with the root cause of the problem."
Himes added that the bill "would have moved us into a world where the people who are here on an undocumented basis would have been normalized."
President Barack Obama announced that he is re-directing dollars to the border while he waits for Congress to authorize emergency funding.
Officials still have to figure out what to do with the recent migrants. A plan to house the undocumented children in a small Virginia town was rebuffed by the community. Another plan to relocate some to Long Island has been dropped because it is not a suitable location.
Himes said immigration reform is an emotional debate, but the country still needs to deal with what he called a vulnerable population. He said, "Whether these children are temporarily housed, we need to make sure they are safe and sound, and then begin the process of getting them back to their countries, and squashing whatever rumors there are that are driving people here in the first place."
The Democrat rebuffed views from Republicans who have said the President's deferred action for undocumented students caused the influx. The Dreamers program is only eligible for undocumented youth who were brought to this country before 2007. They are able to live and work in the U.S. without getting deported.