Senators told President Obama on Thursday that he must personally step up and make clear illegal immigrant children surging across the border will be quickly sent home, as the administration faces growing bipartisan pressure to get a better handle on the situation playing out in Texas.
Led by Sens. Jeff Flake, Arizona Republican, and Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, more than three-dozen senators signed a letter saying Mr. Obama needs to “personally make clear” that those jumping the border will not get special treatment.
The senators, who covered the ideological and geographic spectrum, also demanded Mr. Obama tell the leaders of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala they have a duty to dispel rumors that their citizens can gain legalization if they get to the U.S.
“The present situation begs your personal efforts to clarify U.S. immigration laws and to spur action from leaders of the primary sending countries,” the senators said.
Mr. Obama has deployed some of his top lieutenants, including Vice President Joseph R. Biden and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, to make the case that children entering the U.S. illegally won’t be eligible for Mr. Obama’s non-deportation policies, nor would they qualify for the legalization bill senators passed last year.
But Mr. Obama himself has been quiet, and the administration cannot categorically say the children will be returned home — indeed, many of them will apply for asylum or qualify for a special juvenile visa. Others will remain in the U.S. for years while their deportation cases are pending.
Thursday’s letter does expose a split among the eight senators who wrote the Senate’s immigration legalization bill last year. Of the eight, all four GOP authors signed onto the letter, but none of the four Democrats did.