WASHINGTON — Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas, was tapped Tuesday to chair a working group of House Republicans on the border crisis, signaling growing GOP criticism of the Obama Administration’s response to the influx of more than 52,000 unaccompanied children, primarily in the Rio Grande Valley.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said the administration had “failed” to stop tens of thousands of small children and families from Central America from crossing the U.S. border and asked Granger to lead the seven-member group, which includes Texas Reps. John Carter and Mike McCaul, and Florida’s Mario Diaz-Balart.
Granger, 71, in her ninth term, chairs the House Appropriations Committee’s State and Foreign Operations panel, which oversees the State Department and international agency funding.
“Every day, between 250 and 500 unaccompanied children are crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, which has overwhelmed and strained the resources of the Border Patrol, local officials and the states,” Granger a former mayor of Fort Worth, said in a statement.
In announcing the working group, Boehner said Obama “has allowed a national security and humanitarian crisis to develop on the U.S. southern border. There are two imperatives here: protect those children and secure our border.”
The speaker has urged the administration to send the National Guard to help with the children instead of the border patrol. Granger described the situation on the border as “dire” and in need of “immediate solutions.”
“The Border Patrol cannot do their primary job of securing the border, and there are not enough adequate facilities to house, feed, or treat the health care concerns because of the increasing number of unaccompanied children being apprehended at the border on a daily basis,” she said.
As head of the Appropriation subcommittee, Granger secured $120 million in funding Tuesday to help stop the flow of children by assisting Mexico and Central American countries enhance border security, combat human trafficking and smuggling. The funds were also for repatriation and reintegration programs and to create a regional dialogue about the problem.
"We know the majority of the unaccompanied children are traveling from only a handful of countries, so it's vital that we focus our efforts on Mexico and Central America to resolve this crisis,” according to Granger‘s statement.
Most of the children are from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala and are attempting to join parent and family members in the U.S. They have been sent by adults, often with smugglers, in the mistaken belief that there is an amnesty for underage illegal entrants.
The Obama Administration created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals in 2012, but it is a non-deportation policy that applies to children brought to the U.S. before 2007.
Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, who represents Laredo, located on the Mexican border, has been warning about the rising number of unaccompanied children. After initially being critical of the administration, Cuellar said that new efforts, especially to inform Central American countries that no permits, or “permisos,” are available for illegal children, were a big improvement.
“The policy changes...are very good, a step forward,” he told McClatchy of Homeland Security’s plans.
Cuellar said the problem is that a dearth of immigration judges on the border means children with family members in the U.S. are not being processed. He blames the groups bringing the children in illegally.
“It’s the smugglers’ organizations,” he said.