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House GOP Leader Heads To Southern Border As Democrats Ready Immigration Bills

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Photo by Drew Angerer Getty Images

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., speaks during a news conference about U.S.-Mexico border policy outside the Capitol on Thursday. McCarthy leads a delegation to the border on Monday.

Updated March 15, 2021 at 9:51 AM ET

House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy on Monday leads a group of Republican lawmakers to the U.S. southern border in Texas amid a jump in the number of migrants showing up at the border, especially unaccompanied children.

"This crisis at the border is spiraling out of control," McCarthy told reporters last week. "And it's entirely caused by the actions of this administration."

The Biden administration has stressed in recent days that people should not try and migrate to the United States across the border.

McCarthy, a California Republican, sent a letter to President Biden in early March requesting to meet with him to discuss the increasing number of migrants at the border and to "work together to solve it," but he said he hadn't gotten a response.

McCarthy's trip comes as the Biden administration grapples with a surge in children arriving at the border without their parents, leading to record numbers of minors being held in warehouse-like detention facilities run by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. They're supposed to be moved quickly to more appropriate shelters run by the Department of Health and Human Services.

On Saturday evening, the Department of Homeland Security announced that over the next 90 days, the Federal Emergency Management Agency will help process the high levels of unaccompanied migrant children.

"Our goal is to ensure that unaccompanied children are transferred to HHS as quickly as possible, consistent with legal requirements and in the best interest of the children," Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement.

Mayorkas may be asked about the situation on the border on Wednesday morning, when he's scheduled to testify virtually in front of the House Homeland Security Committee on "the way forward on homeland security."

Pathways to citizenship for various groups

Amid the focus on the southern border, congressional Democrats are mobilizing on several pieces of legislation that would construct a pathway to legal status for millions of people living in the country.

This week the House will begin consideration of two bills aimed at amending the immigration system, according to the office of Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md.

The first, the American Dream and Promise Act, would establish a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children — otherwise known as "DREAMers." It would also include a pathway to citizenship for people granted temporary protected status, along with those who were recipients of deferred enforced departure as of Jan. 20, 2021.

The House will also consider the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, which would create a system in which a worker in the agricultural industry could earn temporary status with an eventual option to become a permanent resident. It also would amend the existing H-2A temporary agricultural worker visa program.

Both bills have strong support from Democrats and passed the lower chamber in 2019.

It's unclear how they would fare in the Senate, where they would be in need of Republican support.

The bills represent a more targeted approach at passing immigration legislation than Biden's comprehensive immigration proposal — the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 — which could face significant opposition among Republicans in the Senate.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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