(CNSNews.com) - Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) says she'd prefer to see unaccompanied Mexican children given the same treatment as Central American children, instead of the other way around.
She was asked if House Democrats would go along with Republican calls to change a 2008 law that says unaccompanied Mexican children who come to the U.S. illegally may be sent home immediately, but those from "noncontiguous" countries, including Central America, must have case-by-case immigration hearings with free legal counsel to determine if they qualify for asylum.
Some Republicans, including Texas Gov. Rick Perry, want more flexibility to send the unaccompanied Central American children home faster.
"Well, I really do think all of this has to be done on a case-by-case basis," Pelosi told a news conference on Thursday. "So quite frankly, if they wanted to make it uniform, I would have rather they treated the Mexican kids the way they treated the noncontiguous country kids."
Pelosi said the most important thing is to quickly pass the $3.7 billion in emergency spending requested by President Obama.
"What price we have to pay to do that, we'll see in the course of the debate." She said she hopes Republicans won't insist on changing the way Central American children are treated, even though the administrative process can take years. But "it's not a deal-breaker," she added.
"But make no mistake, if they want to say, well, contiguous versus non-contiguous, that's the price we want to exact, what's their point? Just to lessen the due process that kids would have? Or is it to send a message to those countries to say: 'Don't think that that is going to be easy.' You know, if it's about message, OK, whatever message we can send to keep people home who shouldn't be trying to get into the country under the Wilberforce law."
Among other things, the supplemental spending bill includes money to send more attorneys and immigration judges to the border to handle the influx of unaccompanied minors from Central America.
"You probably know by now that when it comes to children, from my standpoint, I'm like a lioness," Pelosi said. "That's -- don't mess with the children, OK? You want to talk about contiguous or noncontiguous, talk about it all day, but give us the money to deal with it..."