Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell filed an amendment Thursday seeking to stem the flow of young migrants from Central America into Kentucky and other states.
The Senate is currently debating a bill that would allocate $2.7 billion toward what President Obama and congressional leaders have called a humanitarian crisis.
Under McConnell’s proposal, the administration would be required to consult with governors before transporting any of the over 57,000 unaccompanied minors who are fleeing violence in their native countries.
“My amendment makes clear that these minors should be treated humanely and returned to their home country immediately, not shipped across the nation and housed at taxpayer expense,” McConnell said on the Senate floor Thursday. “I hope that we will have an open amendment process on the Senate floor so that my amendment can be considered.”
The amendment prohibits the transportation of those children across state lines unless the secretary of the federal Health and Human Services Department certifies the children do not pose a public health risk or economic burden on the affected communities.
McConnell’s amendment to the Senate border legislation would also forbid the children’s transportation unless the secretaries of HHS and Homeland Security certify it will not delay their immediate repatriation.
What to do with the unaccompanied minors was an issue in Kentucky last week when Sen. Rand Paul said some of the children were being sent to Fort Knox. An official with HHS told WFPL the department had no plans to use Fort Knox as a temporary shelter.
Funding in the Senate bill falls short of the $3.7 billion President Obama had originally requested. However, it exceeds the $659 million price tag House Republicans have proposed in their plan.
The Obama administration has criticized the GOP alternative for its lower cost and for taking aim at a 2008 law to combat human trafficking by making it easier to deport migrant children faster.
Democratic Congressman John Yarmuth of Louisville said he plans to vote against the House version of the bill for that reason, among others.
“It does thing like send National Guard troops to the border,” said Yarmuth, who is a supporter of comprehensive immigration reform. “In this particular situation there’s no need for additional border security.
“These young people are actually turning themselves in to the authorities there, they don’t need to be repelled. These are superficial ideas that do nothing to address the fundamental problem.”
Yarmuth said McConnell’s proposal also does not deal with the essence of the current border crisis.
“I understand the mentality of not in my backyard, but the amendment that Senator McConnell has put forward is just a reflection of a misunderstanding of the young people who are coming to the U.S., and I think also of our national responsibility to accommodate them in some way before we judge if they’re entitled to refugee status,” Yarmuth said.