WASHINGTON (AP) — Top Obama administration officials are telling senators that they've been struggling to keep up with the surge of immigrants at the nation's southern border.
The administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency testified today that authorities haven't yet been able to make sure that children arriving at the border without their parents are being processed by the Border Patrol as quickly as required. Craig Fugate (FYOO'-gayt) says there's been "progress," but that sometimes there are "sudden influxes of kids coming in faster than we can discharge them."
Republicans at the hearing blamed the Obama administration for trying to relax some deportation rules. They said it contributes to the belief in Central America that once they are in the U.S., migrant kids will be allowed to stay.
And Republican Sen. John McCain noted that a high percentage of children fleeing El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala are able to succeed in their goal of staying in America -- because they are issued notices to appear at court hearings, and many of them never do. McCain said, "Your odds are pretty good."
The administration says it wants more flexibility to turn the kids around more quickly. Current law requires minors from countries other than Mexico and Canada to go through the court system, in what is often a lengthy process.
153-a-11-(Senator Tom Coburn, R-Okla., ranking Republican, Senate Homeland Security Commitee, during hearing)-"sends the message"-Senator Tom Coburn says there's a simple way to stop the flood of children to the U.S. (9 Jul 2014)
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151-a-09-(FEMA Director Craig Fugate, testifying before Senate Homeland Security Committee)-"we back up"-FEMA Director Craig Fugate says the system is grappling with the flood of children on the southern border. ((cut used in wrap)) (9 Jul 2014)
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130-a-13-(FEMA Director Craig Fugate, testifying before Senate Homeland Security Committee)-"before they're placed"-FEMA Director Craig Fugate says it's tough processing the immigrant children in a timely fashion. (9 Jul 2014)
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APPHOTO DCSW110: Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., reads the restrictions for visitors to immigration centers during a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, July 9, 2014. Top Obama administration officials told senators they're struggling to keep up with the surge of immigrants at the Southern border. McCain was upset that the restrictions prevented members of Congress from meeting with detainees or bringing in cell phones. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) (9 Jul 2014)
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APPHOTO DCSW101: Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Craig Fugate prepares to testify on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, July 9, 2014, before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on the problems with the increased rise in apprehensions at the Southern border. Top Obama administration officials told senators Wednesday they're struggling to keep up with the surge of immigrants at the Southern border. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) (9 Jul 2014)
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