By: Cindy Carcamo (Los Angeles Times)
A rush of young children crossing alone and illegally into the United States from Texas is so large and unexpected that senior officials with the Obama administration said Monday the White House is asking Congress for about $2 billion to grapple with what is being called a humanitarian crisis.
Immigration agents are so overwhelmed that some children are being kept in detention and being processed during a longer time period than the 72-hour maximum requirement, these senior administration officials acknowledged. The officials briefed reporters on condition of anonymity.
Although they said they had been prepared for an increase this year in the Rio Grande Valley, the influx was much greater than anticipated. As many as 90,000 minors are forecast to enter the U.S. this year without their parents or guardians, the officials said.
But these officials also reiterated that the increased influx of unaccompanied children who are crossing illegally into the United States through Texas is due to escalating violence in Central America and not because of false rumors that people who cross will be eligible for some sort of permanent immigration relief.
The Obama administration request for the funds would cover costs of the Health and Human Services' Unaccompanied Alien Children program and is just the latest effort by federal immigration officials to contain the crisis.
Another $160 million is being sought for the Department of Homeland Security, these senior officials said. In addition, they said the U.S. is coordinating communications with Central American officials to educate people in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador about the dangers of crossing without proper documents.