Costs remain after Congress fails to pass immigration plan

WASHINGTON -- Congress doesn't get good grades from the public.

A new Wall Street Journal poll found almost three-quarters of Americans believe the current Congress has been unproductive. About half of the people surveyed said lawmakers have been "very unproductive."

One of the areas Congress hasn't been able to agree on is immigration. Lawmakers couldn't strike a deal on how much money to spend to handle the growing number of children coming across the border.

A system handling just 6,000 illegal immigrant minors a decade ago is now flooded with more than 57,000 since last October, most from Central America.

President Obama wants $3.7 billion in emergency funds for the final two months of this fiscal year: $1.8 billion of that to feed and house the minors and $1.2 billion for processing.

We asked Marc Rosenblum of the nonpartisan think tank Migration Policy Institute where the money comes from.

"Congress can spend money that it doesn't have," he said. "We run a deficit in many years."

But Congress isn't even close to agreeing on how much extra money to provide.

"The president won't use what he has now to enforce the law," said Republican Congressman Randy Weber of Texas. "So we want to give him more to what - not enforce the law more?"

Weber says money should first come from the countries whose citizens are fleeing in droves.

"We're going to stop your foreign aid and you're going to pay for that until you start helping us stem the tide," he said. "The president has got the wherewithal, the authority, and has had the money to secure the border from Day One. He refuses to do so."

The Democrat-led Senate proposed $2.7 billion to cover the last two months of this fiscal year; the Republican-led House $694 million. Of the total, Democrats would give Health and Human Services $1.2 billion more for housing and humanitarian assistance; Republicans $197 million. Under Democrats, Homeland Security would get an extra $1.1 billion; Republicans, $405 million.

But the whole issue is so contentious, the Senate didn't even vote on its plan before Congress' five-week summer vacation.

Meanwhile, the problem and the expenses continue to build. Rosenblum says they're manageable.

"The United States, in terms of our population and in terms of GDP, we can handle taking care of 50,000 kids if, you know, that's what our hearts tell us to do," he said.

"When you grow a government bureaucracy, you've got a larger criminal justice system, more immigration lawyers, more immigration judges, more immigration courthouses, a bigger system," said Weber.

Will it ever shrink back?

"That's the $64 dollar question," he said. "Does it ever shrink back? History says it will not. That's the problem."

Even with emergency funds in limbo, the White House already announced $384 million in June for programs to help Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, where most of the minors are said to be fleeing poverty and violence.