President Obama is requesting almost $4 billion in emergency funding from Congress to confront an immigration crisis from a wave of unaccompanied children surging across the southern border of the United States, White House officials said Tuesday.
The financial request, which is almost twice as much as initial reports had suggested might be necessary, would boost spending on border patrol agents, immigration judges, aerial surveillance, and new detention facilities. Nearly half of the money would be used to improve care for the children while they are moved through the deportation process.
"We are taking steps to protect due process but also to remove these migrants more efficiently," a White House official said Tuesday morning. "We are taking an aggressive approach on both sides of the border."
Congress will have its own ideas on how the $3.7 billion should be spent. And already there were signs from Republicans on Tuesday that the president's proposal did not address all of their concerns. Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Speaker John A. Boehner, said a "working group on the border crisis" would review the proposal.
"The speaker still supports deploying the National Guard to provide humanitarian support in the affected areas — which this proposal does not address," Mr. Steel said.
The decision to ask Congress for more money comes as Mr. Obama leaves for Texas on Tuesday on a previously scheduled trip that involves political fund-raising and events focused on the middle class and the economy.
Mr. Obama is not scheduled to travel to the border during his visit, but he has offered to meet privately with Governor Rick Perry, after Mr. Perry declined a photo-op handshake with the president in front of Air Force One when Mr. Obama arrives.
In a letter he sent to the White House on Monday afternoon, Mr. Perry rejected "a quick handshake on the tarmac," but offered to meet with Mr. Obama "at any time" for a "substantive meeting to discuss this critical issue."
Watch: Washington eyes immigration
Valerie Jarrett, a senior White House adviser, invited Mr. Perry to a roundtable discussion about the issue with faith leaders and local officials in Dallas. White House officials said Tuesday that Mr. Perry had accepted the invitation, but officials in the governor's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The delicate negotiations over a meeting between the two leaders underscore the high stakes for politicians as they deal with the huge numbers of unaccompanied children crossing into the United States in recent months.
Mr. Obama is under intense pressure from Republicans to show that he is cracking down on the new wave of illegal immigration. The White House has said it intends to ask Congress for more money to more efficiently return the children to their countries. The administration has also said it wants Congress to give officials more authorities to process the children faster.
But the president is also receiving criticism from immigration activists, who have long urged Mr. Obama to reduce the number of deportations of illegal immigrants already in the country. The president is expected this summer to announce steps he will take to moderate deportation policies, especially in cases where the deportations separate established families.