Congress

Pelosi rejects DHS request for authority to deport migrant children to home countries

'Democrats reject any effort to let the administration deport little children,' speaker says

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., says House Democrats will not grant the Department of Homeland Security's request to pass legislation giving the department authority to deport unaccompanied migrant children from Central America. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Friday that House Democrats are rejecting the Department of Homeland Security’s request to pass legislation authorizing the department to send all unaccompanied children who try to cross the border back to their home countries. 

DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen sent a letter to Congress Thursday asking lawmakers to pass legislation providing additional financial resources and legal authority for the department to manage the migrant crisis at the border. 

Among the laws Nielsen wants Congress to change is one that prevents DHS from sending unaccompanied migrant children from non-contiguous countries in Central America back to their home countries. Nielsen said DHS would like authority to send those children “to their families and home countries in a safe and orderly manner if they have no legal right to stay,” as the department currently does for unaccompanied minors from Mexico.

Pelosi said in a statement that the House would not approve such a request.

“Democrats reject any effort to let the Administration deport little children, and we reject all anti-immigrant and anti-family attacks from this President,” the California Democrat said.

The speaker did not say whether the House would be willing to provide additional financial resources Nielsen requested. DHS needs more money for temporary facilities to house migrants trying to cross the border at legal ports of entry while the department processes them and for shelter beds to house the increasing number of unaccompanied minor children in their custody.

“We are grappling with a humanitarian and security catastrophe that is worsening by the day, and the department has run out of capacity, despite extraordinary intra-departmental and interagency efforts,” Nielsen said.

Pelosi’s statement suggested that any additional funding or authority Congress were to provide DHS would be dependent on the administration’s ability to implement immigration policies in a humane way.

“We cannot support the implementation of policies that we know will hurt traumatized children, rip apart vulnerable families, dishonor our values — and do absolutely nothing to solve the situation at the border,” she said.

Pelosi added that the administration needs to “immediately cease sabotaging Congress’s efforts to address the root causes of the situation” by threatening to withhold humanitarian assistance to Central America.

House Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson said in a statement that Nielsen’s letter “continues to confuse and mislead on the situation at the border” and that “the administration has no credibility to demand Congress act when it has acted in bad faith on this issue since day one.”

“I will support resources to ensure those presenting themselves at our borders are treated humanely but will oppose any effort to change policy to allow Secretary Nielsen to deport children and families without offering them due process,” the Mississippi Democrat said.  “Democrats will not allow President Trump or his Administration to continue to further his anti-immigrant, xenophobic agenda.”

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