- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 23, 2014

House Republicans moved to tackle the border crisis at the source Wednesday, proposing to set up repatriation centers in Central American countries to help send back the wave of unaccompanied illegal immigrant children arriving in the U.S.

The plan called for an aggressive public relations campaign in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to discourage families from sending their children on the long journey to America, as well as establishing border security measures not just in the U.S. but in those Central American countries and Mexico.

These dramatic steps on foreign soil were part of a $1.5 billion plan drawn up by a House GOP task force.

SEE ALSO: House task force to recommend National Guard on border, faster deportations

House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, organized the task force to craft an alternative to President Obama’s request for $3.7 billion to address the crisis, which was widely criticized as excessive and pronounced dead on arrival in Congress.

Rep. Kay Granger, the Texas Republican who led the task force, called the proposed measures “common-sense, compassionate but tough solutions.”

“Our focus has been to ensure the safety of the children and it has remained a top priority throughout this process,” she said. “In our personal meetings with the presidents of Honduras and Guatemala they both stated that they wanted their children back, and we believe that is in the best interest of all the countries involved in this crisis.”

Under the plan, the U.S. also would accelerate immigration hearings for the children flooding across the Southern border, provide additional judges to hear requests for asylum, and house the children close to where they enter the country in Texas and Arizona.

The proposals have almost no chance of passing through Congress. The plan faces strong opposition in the GOP-controlled House and even stiffer resistance in the Democrat-run Senate.

Democrats railed against the task force’s proposal to change a 2008 law that delays immigration hearings for children from Central America, which is home to most of the 57,000 unaccompanied children who have arrived illegally in the U.S. so far this year.

The law, known as the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, was intended to protect Central American children from human trafficking, but critics say it has become a foothold and incentive for Central American children coming to the U.S.

President Obama and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, supported changing the law until abruptly reversing their stance after hearing strong opposition from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and pro-immigration groups.

Mr. Boehner wrote to the president, pressing him to restore his support for changing the law.

“Frankly, it is difficult to see how we can make progress on this issue without strong, public support from the White House for much-needed reforms, including changes to the 2008 law,” wrote the speaker.

Signaling that the crisis wouldn’t end any time soon, the Pentagon announced it will freeing up additional space for housing up to 5,000 more of the unaccompanied alien children at military facilities through the end of the year.

The Obama administration turned to the military to house the children after repeatedly encountering opposition in communities slated for shelter sites, including in Maryland and Virginia.

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