Texas Gov. Rick Perry and two key law-enforcement officials are scheduled to testify Thursday at a congressional hearing about the recent surge of unaccompanied minors at the U.S.-Mexico border, a crisis that President Obama recently called “an urgent humanitarian situation.”
The Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families recently announced that the U.S. had apprehended 24,668 unattended youths at the border in fiscal 2013, and officials expect the annual number to reach nearly 60,000 by the end of 2014.
House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Mike McCaul (R-Texas) said this week that more than 50,000 unaccompanied children have crossed into the U.S. from Mexico, with nearly two-thirds of them traveling through the Rio Grande Valley in Texas. Kevin Oaks, who heads the U.S. Border Patrol for that region, is among the witnesses scheduled to testify Thursday.
The Homeland Security committee’s “field hearing” on Thursday will take place at South Texas College, bringing members of the panel close to the heart of the immigration problem, geographically. Steve McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, is also due to appear at the event, which starts at 1 p.m. Eastern Time. (Click here for a live video feed).
The discussion comes days after Obama signaled he has lost all hope of Congress overhauling the nation’s immigration laws this year. He announced Monday that he will redirect more resources to the border for enforcement efforts, adding that he would use executive actions to “fix as much of our immigration system as we can.” He did not offer specifics in his remarks.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency is leading the government’s response to the influx of unattended children, providing housing, medical treatment, transportation and other forms of assistance.
Cecilia Muñoz, director of the White House domestic policy council, said last month that the wave may have come in response to false gossip that children are allowed to stay in the United States despite immigration laws or that minors may benefit from immigration reforms, according to a Washington Post report.
Thirty-three Republican members of Congress issued a letter to Obama on Wednesday calling for the president to end to the executive action known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and commit that newly arrived undocumented immigrants will not receive legal status.
The deferred-action program allows undocumented immigrants between the ages of 16 and 31 who were brought to the United States as children to live and work legally in the United States if they have no criminal record and have either graduated from high school or are currently enrolled in school.
Perry on Wednesday called on Obama to visit the Texas southern border and seek advice from state officials about how to stanch the flow of unaccompanied children to the U.S.
“The real issue, from my perspective, is this message that has come out of this administration for too many years that, ‘Come on up and cross the border and you can become a United States citizen,’” Perry said in a recent Fox News interview.
Obama is scheduled to be in Texas on Thursday for Democratic National Committee fundraisers.