Thursday, April 28, 2016

U.S. Sens. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., left, and Dan Coats, R-Ind. (Photos supplied)

In this photo taken July 3, 2014, mothers from Honduras traveling with their children prepare to get into a U.S. Customs and Border Protection Services agent's truck after crossing the Rio Grande near McAllen, Texas. About 90 Hondurans a day cross illegally from Mexico into the U.S. at the Rio Grande near McAllen, according to the Honduran Consulate, and the families are then brought to Central Station in McAllen and each is released on their own recognizance. Though most travelers have enough money to purchase their own bus tickets to meet family in cities across the U.S., many have nowhere to stay before the buses leave, and most are in need of rest, medical attention and sustenance. It falls to the local government and charities to welcome the uninvited visitors to America. (AP Photo/Austin American-Statesman, Rodolfo Gonzalez) (Rodolfo Gonzalez)
Sens. Donnelly, Coats split on immigration measure spurred by influx of Central Americans while the House debates its own proposal
Posted on Aug. 1, 2014 at 3:34 p.m.

Indiana’s two U.S. senators split on legislation to provide more money to address the surge of Central American minors crossing illegally into the country.

U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly, a Democrat, voted for a procedural measure to allow a vote on the proposal, S. 2648Sen. Dan Coats, a Republican, voted no. The measure garnered 50 yeas to 44 nays in the Thursday evening vote, but it needed 60 votes to pass, per Senate rules, thus it dies.

As of Friday, the GOP-led U.S. House was “frantically” scrambling to pass its own proposal ahead of a recess, Politico reported, but nothing was certain.

“The GOP legislation, which was rewritten twice to attract support, had trouble getting off the ground, and if the House doesn’t vote, lawmakers will head back to their districts to hear from voters with a crisis raging at the border,“ said Politico. U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski, a Republican, serves Elkhart County in the House.

The issue of increasing numbers of unaccompanied minors from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador sneaking into the country due to chaos and violence at home has drawn intense attention from lawmakers. It’s even resonated here locally.

Here’s more on how the issue has impacted Elkhart County:

The Senate proposal called for $2.7 billion to help address the immigration issue, a pared down proposal from President Obama’s $3.7 billion plan, ABC News reported. Obama’s plan aimed at improving border enforcement and helping in the care of children after they’ve crossed.

In explaining his no vote Thursday, Coats said he favors an alternative proposal, the Protecting Children and America’s Homeland Act. That measure would allow for the quicker return of unaccompanied undocumented immigrant children and also prevent the expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which creates a means for those who have come here illegally with their parents to remain.

The Senate proposal up for debate Thursday ”will fail to stem the tide of children making the dangerous trek to the United States,“ Coats said. He continued:

“The best way to stop this humanitarian crisis is to reunite children who have come to America with their families in their home countries. Taking this action will send a message and deter children from even starting the difficult journey to the United States.”


Meanwhile, the Social Advocacy Team of the Indiana Conference of the United Methodist Church issued a statement of support Thursday for unaccompanied immigrant minors:

The group “calls on Gov. Pence and the United States Government to respond in a humane and generous way to these children who have arrived with nothing,” the statement said. “They are simply seeking a better a life, one that our United Methodist congregations hope to help them reach. They are refugees coming from terrible situations that we can only imagine here in the United States.”

Pence said in a statement Tuesday that unaccompanied minors here illegally should be “returned expeditiously” to their home countries.

The immigration issue is particularly germane to Elkhart County, home to a growing population of Latinos, including some here without proper papers. Mexicans and Mexican-Americans account for the overwhelming share of Latinos here, while those of Honduran descent, part of the focus of the current debate, are a distant second on the list.

More coverage:

Follow reporter Tim Vandenack on Twitter at @timvandenack or visit him on Facebook.