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House passes border crisis bill as Obama vows to act alone

A US Border Patrol agent watches undocumented immigrants after taking them into custody on July 22, 2014 near Falfurrias, Texas
A US Border Patrol agent watches undocumented immigrants after taking them into custody on July 22, 2014 near Falfurrias, Texas

The US House of Representatives passed a bill to fund the child migrant crisis on the southwest US border hours after President Barack Obama vowed to act alone to tackle the problem.

The measure, passed by a vote of 223 to 189 in the Republican-dominated chamber, would provide $694 million to deal with the influx.

But it falls far short of $3.7 billion Obama had requested to ease what he has called an "urgent humanitarian situation" and is unlikely to become law.

Since October, more than 57,000 unaccompanied minors have been apprehended crossing the US-Mexico border, about three-quarters of them from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras -- Central American countries where youths are fleeing poverty and gang violence.

"The president must take the lead on this by mitigating this crisis, turning back the tide of illegal immigrants, and fully enforcing our laws," said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (C)  meets with officials from the Rio Grande Valley and other members of Congress at the U.S. Capitol July 24, 2014 to discuss unaccompanied children crossing the US southern border
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (C) meets with officials from the Rio Grande Valley and other members of Congress at the U.S. Capitol July 24, 2014 to discuss unaccompanied children crossing the US southern border

"In the meantime, however, this bill will help our law enforcement personnel and federal agencies deal with this dire situation in the short term," noting it would not result in new or additional federal spending.

The House action came just hours after Obama said he would seek to redeploy existing resources to tackle the child migrant crisis on the US border after congressional inaction.

"I'm going to have to act alone, because we don't have enough resources," Obama said. "We've run out of money."

- Agencies need more money -

Obama reiterated that the government required an urgent injection of funding to carry out basic functions at the border, which has been overwhelmed by the tide of young immigrants seeking to enter the United States illegally.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson has warned that Immigration and Customs Enforcement could run out of money by mid-August, leaving Border Patrol cash-strapped by September as a result.

The US Border Patrol watches the border between El Paso in the United States (R) and Ciudad Juarez in Mexico, on July 22, 2014
The US Border Patrol watches the border between El Paso in the United States (R) and Ciudad Juarez in Mexico, on July 22, 2014

Obama had called on Congress to release an additional $3.7 billion to increase border security and hire additional immigration court judges.

But late Thursday, a $2.7 billion package proposed by Democrats in the Senate -- which has since left Washington for its summer recess -- failed during a procedural vote.

"They say we need more resources, we need tougher border security in this area, where these unaccompanied children are showing up. We agree," Obama said.

"We put forward a supplemental to give us the additional resources in funding to do exactly what they say we should be doing. And they can't pass the bill."

By a vote of 216 to 192, the House late Friday also passed a separate measure targeting an Obama administration program known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, protecting so-called DREAMers -- young people brought to the United States illegally as children pushing to win residency papers in the country they consider home.

In a statement, the White House said the bill could result in the deportation of hundreds of thousands of such youths, describing them as "Americans in every way but on paper."

House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi, meanwhile, called the vote "unconscionable."

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