Senators spar over southern border crisis solution

Washington-DC

WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Lawmakers were unable to agree on a solution to the southern border crisis at a Senate hearing Tuesday. 

Still, lawmakers and immigration agencies agree there are serious problems at the border. 

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan said his agency desperately needs emergency funding. 

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan. (NEXSTAR) 

“In the past 40 days, 60,000 children have entered into DHS custody,” he said. 

McAleenan said 144,000 migrants crossed the border last month — setting a modern record — and most of them were families and children. 

Republicans like Sen. Mike Lee said asylum seekers have learned the U.S. rarely deports children. 

“Such a low removal rate tends to incentivize more migration and more illegal smuggling of the minors,” Lee said. 

The issue of how to deal with the influx of families has created a massive divide between Democratic and Republican lawmakers who support competing bills. 

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham’s bill would allow families to be held in government custody for up to 100 days. It would also force families and children to apply for asylum in their home countries. 

Sen. Richard Durbin said there was until recently a program that allowed children to do just that. 

A gate along the U.S. border with Mexico. (NEXSTAR) 

“Was it shut down by the trump administration? Yes,” Durbin said. 

On the Democratic side, Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s bill would ensure children are held in safe conditions for as short a time as possible. She pointed to recent inspections of immigration detention centers. 

“The inspectors found facilities with moldy vents and concluded that immigrants received contaminated and rotten food,” Feinstein said. 

Both parties agree, however, on adding immigration judges to speed up cases. 

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