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Obama weighs sending National Guard to border

CNN
Thursday, July 24, 2014 - 3:22pm

 The Obama administration, after initially resisting the idea, is weighing whether to deploy National Guard troops to the southern border to help address a surge of migrant youth from Central America, many of them unaccompanied, a White House official told CNN.

The Pentagon and the Department of Health and Human Services sent a team earlier this week to assess Border Patrol efforts in the Rio Grande Valley, the official said, where tens of thousands of children have poured into the United States this year.

The administration's latest efforts in what most agree is a humanitarian crisis come as Washington struggles to address the matter with little optimism for a solution before Congress breaks for its month-long August recess.

Here's the latest:

Little optimism for a solution from Congress: House Speaker John Boehner accuses President Barack Obama of being "AWOL" on the crisis and flip-flopping on solutions.

A key partisan point of contention is a Republican proposal to change a 2008 law that allows Central American immigrant children to stay in the United States until they receive a hearing. That process can take months or years.

Republicans want to tweak the Bush-era law so that migrant youth from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, who do not qualify for refugee status, are sent home more quickly.

Democrats worry the expedited process will mean many will fall through the cracks and will be sent back to what many have characterized as violent situations in their countries.

"The administration started earlier this month by signaling some openness to changes in the 2008 law to accelerate the process of returning these children to their home countries," Boehner told reporters on Thursday. "The President called for this change, the secretary of homeland security called for this change, and other administration officials have called for this change. Now the President and his team have apparently flip-flopped."

House Republicans proposed a $1.5 billion package on Wednesday aimed at helping to resolve the crisis.

The tally is nearly $1 billion less than that proposed in a measure by Senate Democrats just a day before and less than half of the $3.7 billion Obama has said he needs to effectively combat the problem.

However, top congressional leaders from both parties say they doubt Congress will act before beginning its recess. Time to do something is also short when they get back in September due to the upcoming midterm elections in November.

Meanwhile, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, and members from the Texas congressional delegation were to meet with officials from the Rio Grande Valley and the Brownsville office of Catholic Charitieson on Thursday to discuss the problem.

White House reconsidering National Guard: The White House has not embraced calls from Republicans and even some Democrats to send guard troops to the border with Mexico. President Barack Obama suggested, in a conversation with Texas Gov. Rick Perry earlier this month, that it could be a temporary solution.

Perry followed up this week, announcing he would deploy up to 1,000 guard troops to the border area most affected by the surge -- the Rio Grande Valley.

A White House official told CNN there had been no request from homeland security officials for such a step, but that the Pentagon would make the call, if asked for help.

Gil Kerlikowske, commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection told CNN's "New Day" on Thursday the administration is "very pleased" and optimistic with conditions" at the border.

Kerlikowske also noted that the flow of migrant youth has slowed, but also said that is a usual occurrence in hotter parts of the summer.

Central American leaders in the U.S.: Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina and Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez are slated to speak at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a nonprofit, foreign policy think tank, on Thursday about ways to stem the from of immigrant kids.

Molina and Hernandez, along with El Salvadoran President Salvador Sanchez Ceren, are scheduled to meet with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden on Friday.

Bush calls on Republicans to fix the problem: Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a possible 2016 Republican presidential candidate, wrote an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal asking fellow Republicans not abandon comprehensive immigration reform and asking for the affected immigrant children to be treated more compassionately when they are taken into custody. His piece echoes themes in a similar statement last week to CNN.

"President Obama has promised to once again act unilaterally if Congress fails to take up immigration reform," Bush wrote. "Now is the time for House Republicans to demonstrate leadership on this issue. Congress should not use the present crisis as an excuse to defer comprehensive immigration reform."

Kevin Liptak and Deirdre Walsh contributed to this report.

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