White House: Influx of Border Crossers Referred to Removal Proceedings with 'Very Few Exceptions'
"So as folks know, we have been dealing with a surge of unaccompanied children," began White House Domestic Policy Council director Cecilia Munoz on a call with reporters today.
Munoz said "an extraordinary interagency effort to deal with an urgent humanitarian situation" is underway under the guidance of the Department of Homeland Security.
The administration is blaming "misinformation that is being deliberately planted by criminal organizations, by smuggling networks, about what people can expect if they come to the United States" for the influx of Central Americans.
"That is misinformation that is being promulgated and put forward in a very deliberate way," said Munoz.
Deputy DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said the department is "surging resources to increase our capacity to detain individuals and adults with children, and to handle immigration court hearings."
"This will allow Immigration and Customs Enforcement -- or ICE -- to return unlawful migrants from Central America who are ordered removed to their home countries more quickly," Mayorkas said. "...With very few exceptions, all individuals apprehended, including adults with children, are placed in removal proceedings."
"...But let me make one very important point, and that is that our detention and notice-to-appear decisions are made on a case-by-case basis, and of course, our detention decisions are predicated on an assessment of our prioritization, including at the very top our national security and public safety concerns."
As of June 15, approximately 52,000 unaccompanied children were apprehended in 12 months along the Southwest border, Mayorkas said.
By the end of May, about 39,000 adults with children crossing illegally had been apprehended in the preceding 12 months.
"The question before us is how can we make the process more efficient, given the surge in the number of individuals who are being apprehended, and how best can we address those individuals in terms of their humanitarian claims of relief, as well as the removal for those who are not claiming credible fear," Mayorkas said. "...It is something that comes within our appropriate jurisdiction and responsibility between the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice."
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) sent President Obama a letter asking that he urgently deploy National Guard along the southern border.
“The policies of your administration have directly resulted in the belief by these immigrants that once they reach U.S. soil, they will be able to stay here indefinitely," Boehner wrote. "There are several steps that we call on you and your administration to take immediately to enforce our laws, stem the tide of migrants, protect the victims, and ensure that these individuals are dealt with in a humane manner that is consistent with American ideals of compassion and family unity. The safety of these migrant children is a matter of paramount importance.”
Mayorkas said they needed to review Boehner's letter "right away to understand how they envision the role of the National Guard."
The White House said Vice President Joe Biden called President Juan Orlando Hernández of Honduras "to discuss a regional strategy to address the influx of unaccompanied children coming from Central America to the U.S.-Mexico border."
"The Vice President previewed his meeting in Guatemala with the Presidents of Guatemala and El Salvador, as well as representatives from the governments of Mexico and Honduras to discuss the urgent humanitarian issue. He asked President Hernández to work in close cooperation with other regional leaders to develop concrete proposals to address the root causes of unlawful migration from Central America," said the readout of the call.
"The Vice President also reiterated that arriving migrants will not qualify for legalization under proposed immigration reform legislation or deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA)."