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June 26, 2014

Barletta rips Homeland Security secretary on 65G kids at border

WASHINGTON — Jeh Johnson could not answer U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta’s intense questioning Tuesday on how the Obama administration can say it is surprised by the 65,000 unaccompanied children at the Mexican border when the federal government six months ago posted an ad seeking 65,000 chaperones.

Explain that ad, Barletta asked Johnson, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, during a hearing.

Johnson could not.

“I don’t know where that estimate comes from,” Johnson said. “I don’t know who created that 65,000 estimate. In all likelihood we’ll probably exceed that in the rate we’re going. We’ve known this has been a problem since I took office six months ago.”

Said Barletta, R-11, Hazleton: “The Department of Homeland Security was created to stop bad things from happening before they happen. Who knew there was going to be 65,000? Why was the administration surprised? Why didn’t anyone do anything to stop this in advance?”

More than 65,000 juveniles, mostly from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, have crossed the border without adults.

The ad solicited “escort services for unaccompanied alien children,” and was posted Jan. 29 on FedBizOpps.gov, a website clearing house for employment opportunities with the federal government. It also contained a link to a document that gave more detail of the employment opportunity, saying that there would be “approximately 65,000” unaccompanied children who needed care.  

Barletta continued to press Johnson.

“But we shouldn’t be surprised, because we saw it coming as far back as January,” Barletta said. “Somebody did, in DHS. I’d like to know who it is if you can find out.”

Replied Johnson: “I’m not disagreeing with you. We’ve known this was an issue since I took office.”

Many of the children are being held in detention centers in the Southwest, awaiting processing and possible deportation.

“There’s nothing wrong with our immigration laws,” Barletta shot back. “We just don’t enforce them.”

Johnson called the immigrant influx a humanitarian issue as much as one of border security.

He said the children reach the United States hungry, thirsty, scared, and vulnerable. Johnson says the way these children are treated reflects U.S. laws and values.

Barletta on June 19 voted unsuccessfully in favor of allocating $41.5 million to the National Guard for border control. U.S. Rep. Tom Marino voted against the measure, which failed to clear the House by a 292-130 vote.

The legislation would have providing funding to the National Guard so it can help Southwest border agents cope with thousands of unaccompanied child immigrants now arriving in the U.S. from Central America. The funds were to have been transferred from elsewhere in the $570.4 billion military budget.

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