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Collins Calls for Senate to Go Back to the Drawing Board

Jennifer Mitchell

Republican U.S. Senator Susan Collins says the Senate needs to go back to Washington to deal with the crisis of unaccompanied immigrant minors flooding over the country's  southern border.

"Now that the House has passed a bill, I believe that the Senate should be called back into session by the Senate majority leader to try to work out a compromise, and to get a bill and send it to the president's desk." Collins said on Saturday at a news conference in Bangor.

But she says the nearly 700 million dollars approved by the House on Friday is likely too little, while the 3.7 billion dollars requested by President Obama is too much.

Collins has recently returned from a fact-finding tour of the U.S. border with Mexico, where tens of thousands of unaccompanied immigrant minors are being held in South Texas. The trip included visits to the U.S. Border Patrol’s McAllen Station, and Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio.  Collins describes the facilities where the minors are being kept as "clean" and  "safe"  where minors are receiving adequate care and supervision.

Most of the children who have made the 2000 mile journey are teenagers, likely hoping to find jobs in the U.S., and gang violence may also be a factor in driving these youths North, says Collins.
But, says Collins, the U.S. government needs to send a strong message to families in Central America that their children will not be allowed to stay. " And I think that message should have been sent two years ago when the spike first became evident."

Independent U.S. Senator Angus King agrees that the government could have done a better job of telling families that their children would be sent back, but he says the issue is a complex one and not solely the government's fault. 

While immigration from Mexico has remained more or less steady over the last five years, there's been a spike in immigrants from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, which have some of the highest murder rates in the world. Nearly 60 thousand unaccompanied minors have tried to cross into the US, up from about 20 thousand five years ago.