Administration Won't Say How Many Children Are Showing Up for Deportation Hearings

By | June 25, 2014 | 5:54am EDT

White House spokesman Josh Earnest. (AP File Photo)

( - Both the Obama White House and the Homeland Security Secretary on Tuesday were asked -- again -- how many child aliens, released on a promise to appear in court, are actually showing up for removal hearings. So far, no administration official has given a number or a percentage.

"I don't have that number in front of me," White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters on Tuesday after one of them asked.

"It's not that you don't have it. It's that you don't want to release it, right?" the reporter said, noting that Earnest was asked the same question last week.

"Well, I don't have it, actually...DHS may have it," Earnest replied. "But let me just stipulate something. Without knowing what that number is and without having seen it, I think we can all stipulate that that number is too high. And that's why you have seen an investment, a surge, in fact, of resources by this administration to try to address what is a large and growing problem along our southern border."

At a congressional hearing on Tuesday, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson couldn't give the percentage of children showing up for their status hearings, either.

"I do know that unaccompanied children in removal proceedings are in fact removed," Johnson said.

"What percentage...are returning for these status hearings?" Johnson was asked.

"I don't have that percentage," Johnson replied.

Back at the White House, a reporter asked Earnest if he could get the number -- "in the interests of transparency."

Earnest said he understands the interest in this -- but he never said he would try to get the number.

Earnest noted that children from Mexico who cross into the U.S. are "immediately returned," but "others are detained and returned."

"So they go through the immigration process just like everyone else, but there are special accommodations that are required when we're talking about children who show up at the Southern border adult, without a parent nearby. So there is a -- there is a process that we put in place."

He talked about FEMA, DHS, and HHS providing resources to deal with the "humanitarian situation," then he asserted that the Obama administration "has demonstrated its commitment to enforcing the law, and that's exactly what we're doing."

Asked if the Obama administration might send National Guard troops to the border, as House Speaker John Boehner is urging, Earnest dodged the question: "The president has made a historic commitment to deploying resources to secure our border," he said. "That is both in the form of technology and in the form of personnel."

Earnest called it "ironic" that Republicans who want the National Guard to be deployed are the same people "who are blocking common-sense immigration reform legislation passed by the Senate that -- wait for it -- included a historic commitment of resources to the United States border.

"So if we really wanted to solve this problem, one good way to do it would be for those Republicans to get on board and do what so many Republicans did in the United States Senate, which is support common-sense immigration reform..."

In a speech on the Senate floor Thursday, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) pointed to a leaked May 30 memo written by Deputy Border Patrol chief Ronald Vitiello, which said only three percent of apprehensions from countries other than Mexico are being sent back to their home countries, most in Central America.

"I repeat: only three percent are being returned home," Sessions said.

Sessions blames lax immigration enforcement for the border crisis. "America deserves leaders in the Executive Branch who will stand up and say clearly: the crisis must end now. The border is closed. If you come unlawfully, you will be deported."

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