Bud Kennedy

July 19, 2014

Granger set with border plan, but is the House ready for it?

The Fort Worth Republican says her working group will call for streamlining immigration courts and sending the National Guard to help border agents.

As a leader on national defense policy and also a parent and grandparent, U.S. Rep. Kay Granger was the perfect Texas Republican to take on the challenge of dealing with 58,000 legally protected children arriving alone at the border.

When we interviewed the Fort Worth Republican on Friday for the Sunday Inside Texas Politics on WFAA/Channel 8, she was ready with answers.

By day’s end, we were left with more questions.

Like everything around the Central American children and their eventual U.S. departure or acceptance under a 2008 law meant to help exploitation victims, the House Republican policy proposal has grown more complicated.

Granger, chairwoman of a seven-member House working group for Speaker John Boehner, said early Friday that the House policy response was ready to release.

She laid it out for WFAA in an interview to be broadcast Sunday at 9 a.m.

For example, she said the plan calls for sending the National Guard to help Border Patrol agents, and for returning most children as quickly as their home countries are ready.

She also said Dallas County and other sites shouldn’t try to house children in abandoned buildings, and cited a federal contract rate of $250 to $500 per day per child — or a total of $60 million in federal money for Dallas.

But by day’s end, House Republicans had yet to release the group’s plan.

In a statement reported on Politico.com, Granger said the working group made “extraordinary progress” and will present “sensible, humane and tough” recommendations.

She has consistently called the children’s arrival a “humanitarian and national security crisis,” not a decision on immigration reform.

After visiting with elected officials in Guatemala and Honduras, she emphasizes both sending the children home quickly and supporting those countries’ efforts to keep them home.

In the statement to Politico, she said her priority is to stop women and children from making the “horrific trip” and to send children unqualified to stay back to their homeland in a “swift and humane way.”

Some children are eligible to stay based on the 2008 law accepting children who have been victims of abuse, violence, sex trafficking or labor exploitation. The way that law is written, it grants Central American children an often-delayed civil hearing in immigration court and accepts them more freely than children from Mexico.

The hearings can take up to five years.

(Don’t like the law or system? What part of legal don’t you understand?)

“Accelerate this process,” she said, calling for more judges: “Same process, but not taking five years.”

In a separate interview on KXAS/Channel 5, Granger said even more strongly that abandoned Dallas County schools are not the right place to house children.

“I don’t think a school is set up to be a shelter or home for a child,” she said, according to The Dallas Morning News.

(That seems to leave room for housing children at Catholic Charities Fort Worth and other residential facilities, particularly those already serving other refugees.)

On both TV stations and the Fox News Channel, she repeated that “we’re sending the children back.”

But it all takes time.

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