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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

NH House hopefuls split on immigration legislation

CONCORD – Republicans hoping to unseat New Hampshire’s U.S. House incumbents are split on recent legislation to address the crisis on the country’s southern border.

The $694 million bill passed by the Republican-controlled House on Aug. 1 would increase spending for overwhelmed border agencies, add more immigration judges and detention spaces, and alter a 2008 anti-trafficking law to permit Central American children to be sent back home without deportation hearings. More than 57,000 unaccompanied youths arrived between October and August, mostly from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala, plus tens of thousands more migrants traveling as families. ...

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CONCORD – Republicans hoping to unseat New Hampshire’s U.S. House incumbents are split on recent legislation to address the crisis on the country’s southern border.

The $694 million bill passed by the Republican-controlled House on Aug. 1 would increase spending for overwhelmed border agencies, add more immigration judges and detention spaces, and alter a 2008 anti-trafficking law to permit Central American children to be sent back home without deportation hearings. More than 57,000 unaccompanied youths arrived between October and August, mostly from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala, plus tens of thousands more migrants traveling as families.

U.S. Reps. Annie Kuster and Carol Shea-Porter, both Democrats, voted against the bill, which fell far short of the $3.7 billion President Barack Obama initially requested, but no final deal could be reached because it passed after senators killed their own legislation and left for their summer recess.

In New Hampshire’s 2nd District, former state Sen. Gary Lambert said he would have voted against the bill, though he does support a companion measure that would shut off a program created by Obama granting work permits to immigrants brought here illegally as children. State Rep. Marilinda Garcia also opposed the spending bill, saying the problem can’t be solved by providing more money “with no expectation that President Obama and his allies in Congress would enforce the law.” Along with former state Rep. Jim Lawrence, they are competing for a chance to face Kuster in November.

In the 1st District, Republican hopeful Dan Innis said he probably would have voted for the bill. “It takes resources to combat the crisis at the border, and it is especially important to deal with the children in a manner that is humane and will more quickly reunite them with their families,” he said.

Innis, a University of New Hampshire administrator, faces former U.S. Rep. Frank Guinta and several others in the Sept. 9 primary, with the winner taking on Shea-Porter. Guinta did not directly answer questions from The Associated Press, but instead offered a broader statement on immigration policy. He said Obama should end the work permit program, existing immigration laws should be enforced, additional manpower should be put on the border along with enhanced technology, and the U.S. should “set a tone that the rule of law will be respected.”

Asked how else Congress should have responded to the thousands of unaccompanied children crossing the border, Innis said the U.S. should both quickly process and return the children and reach out to the governments in their home countries.

“We should try to help El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala to address the issue before parents become so desperate that they send their children on a dangerous journey,” he said.

Securing the border is not as simple as building a fence, Innis said, and should include increasing manpower, using the National Guard when necessary, building new fences at strategic locations and working with state and local governments.

Lambert said he, too favors significantly increasing border patrol agents or national guards, increased fencing in some areas and the use of drones and other technology.

Garcia was less specific, but said the border should be secured and the legal immigration system strengthened and clarified. Given the threat of terrorism, “national security is border security,” she said.