Many members of Congress are reportedly ready to bolt from Washington D.C. to begin their month-long August recess. Iowa Senator Tom Harkin expects both chambers will be adjourning today or tomorrow at the latest. Harkin says he’s frustrated at the lack of progress in dealing with the recent flood of undocumented children from Central America who’ve entered the U.S. illegally.
“One thing I think should be done is that the House should put up for a vote the immigration bill that we passed on a bipartisan vote here in the Senate last year,” Harkin says. “It has been said many times that if the House voted on it, it would pass and go to the president for his signature.”
The Obama Administration is proposing a package that would cost $3.7 billion, but it’s meeting with much resistance. Harkin, a Democrat, says he’d like to see passage of what’s known as a supplemental appropriations bill — before Congress vacates the Capitol Building until early September. “And that includes funds for both border security,” Harkin says, “and for Health and Human Services to house and feed and give protection to a lot of the young people who have come across the border.”
Nearly 60,000 children from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala have come into the U.S. illegally since October, with about 140 undocumented children coming to Iowa. Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley is quoted as saying the cost to taxpayers to care for the children could be as much as $1,000 per day. Harkin says there’s been public outcry on both sides of the issue and the proposed spending bill would remedy some of the urgent demands.
Harkin says, “This is desperately needed and I’m hopeful that we’ll get this done before we leave here, whenever we leave here.” A bipartisan group of lawmakers is scheduled to leave Friday on a fact-finding trip to the southern border. Harkin is not among them. Iowa Congressman Steve King, a Republican, was at the border recently and says he learned things that “shocked him deeply” about the children who’ve walked across the border, like how up to 70 percent of the female children were sexually assaulted. King says once those children reach American soil, they’re being treated “humanely” by federal agents and private groups that stepped forward to house them.