By Susan Cornwell
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. House Speaker John Boehner on Thursday expressed doubts Congress would agree by the end of this month on an emergency response to the crisis involving an influx of thousands of child migrants at the U.S. southern border.
President Barack Obama, a Democrat, has requested $3.7 billion in emergency funds to bolster border security and speed up deportations. Boehner said the Republican-run House of Representatives had been discussing the matter all week but had not come to any decisions on its response to Obama's request.
Many Republicans want to use the emergency funding request to change a 2008 law that gives some immigrant children more protections from deportation. They, and Obama, think that the law might be encouraging Central American children to flock to the United States illegally.
Boehner, at his weekly news conference, complained that comments by some Democrats ruling out changes to the 2008 law had made the issue "much more difficult to deal with," and darkened the outlook for bipartisan agreement.
The 2008 law gave added protections for children arriving from countries that do not border the United States; many of many arrivals are from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.
"I would certainly hope so but I don't have as much optimism as I'd like to have," Boehner said when asked whether he thought Republicans and Democrats could agree on a response by the end of July, before the start of a long summer break.
While there was a humanitarian crisis at the border that needed to be dealt with, "I don't know how you can address the problem down there without looking at the '08 law," Boehner said.
"I don't know how Congress can send more money to the border to begin to mitigate the problem if you don't do something about the '08 law that is being abused. And it is being abused."
House Republicans said earlier this week that they were working to pare Obama's request down, and trying to determine how much money was needed to address the immediate crisis at the border. Boehner said this work was continuing.
The Obama administration has been struggling to gain control of the influx of immigrants that are overwhelming immigration resources and leading to scattered protests from people angry at the government for housing some border crossers in communities around the country.
The flood of unaccompanied migrants have inflamed a raging debate over whether to approve comprehensive immigration reform to cover some 11 million undocumented people in the United States.
(Reporting by Susan Cornwell; Editing by Bernard Orr)