WASHINGTON — The White House signaled Monday that it expects to deport most of the unaccompanied minors illegally entering the country across the southern border, using the strongest rhetoric to date to indicate that an influx of thousands of Central American immigrants will not be tolerated.
The tougher tone came a day before Obama administration officials were expected to ask Congress to authorize new measures, including more than $2 billion in emergency funds, that would expedite the legal processing of the more than 52,000 children and 39,000 families apprehended this year.
Officials said the request is separate from statutory changes that the administration is also seeking to make it easier to deport children back to Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, where most of the influx originated.
The moves come as President Barack Obama attempts to stem an escalating border crisis that has caught the administration unprepared as he gets ready to announce potentially broad changes to U.S. immigration policies. The administration's rhetoric has upended traditional political alliances on the issue, drawing rebukes from Democratic allies who fear that the children will be returned to violent and impoverished countries.
More than 100 immigrant rights activists, including some undocumented children who arrived in the country recently, marched outside the White House gates Monday in protest of the administration's deportation policies.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest emphasized that the administration is committed to abiding by the law in dealing with the minors, saying each will have a chance to make a case for legal protections in court.
But Earnest said "it's unlikely that most of the kids who go through this process will qualify for humanitarian relief, which is to say that most of them will not have a legal basis . . . to remain in this country."
House Republican leaders, including Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, said they would reserve judgment on the administration's fiscal request until they see the details.
Felix Browne, a spokesman for Texas Gov. Rick Perry, said the increased funding is a "step in the right direction" if it bolsters border patrols, adding that Perry has warned Obama for years about the need to step up enforcement efforts in the region.
Obama is set to visit Texas this week for a series of Democratic fundraisers. But aides said the president will not visit the border in the Rio Grande Valley region, where most of the children and families are arriving, because he already has been fully briefed on the situation.