The letter comes two days after the White House signaled its intent to request more than $2 billion in emergency funds to deal with the crisis and statutory authority to more quickly deport those who have crossed the Mexico border into the United States over the past several months, mostly in the Rio Grande Valley in southwest Texas.
“We appreciate the update from the White House, but there are too few details – at this point – to determine whether their proposal would be effective," said Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio). "We await the actual request.”
The administration has been overwhelmed by the more than 52,000 unaccompanied children and 39,000 women with children who have been apprehended on the border this year, a large increase from previous years. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have been demanding that the administration take actions to stem the influx, and the request to Congress aims to enlist lawmakers in the effort -- and the potential consequences.
Though Republicans have called the administration's immigration policies weak and blamed them for contributing to the problem, immigration advocates are skeptical of the ramped-up border control strategy, saying the women and children could face violence if they are returned to their home countries. Most of the migrants have come from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.
The administration already has announced plans to build more detention space for immigrant families awaiting immigration hearings and sending more judges and lawyers to the border to process the cases.
"This surge of resources will mean that cases are processed fairly and as quickly as possible," Obama wrote, "ensuring the protection of asylum seekers and refugees while enabling the prompt removal of individuals who do not qualify for asylum or other forms of relief from removal."