The always-heated politics around immigration is threatening to become the mid-term election's most divisive issue, as Republicans and Democrats zero in on the thousands of migrant children seeking to cross the U.S.-Mexico border.

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, the longtime South Carolina Republican, said recently after his victory over primary tea party opposition that he would work with Democrats to solve the problem. Whether his view will win out will be perhaps the deciding issue both for President Obama and for Republicans looking to position the party for a presidential win in 2016.

President Obama has been touring border states, but controversially has not paid a visit to the border itself. A deal is in the works - the AP explains the impasse:

At issue is a law approved in 2008. Passed to give protection to sex trafficking victims, it requires court hearings for migrant young people who arrive in this country from "noncontiguous" countries - anywhere other than Mexico or Canada.

Because of enormous backlogs in the immigration court system, the result in the current crisis is that kids streaming in from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala are released to relatives or others in the U.S. with notices to appear at long-distant court hearings that many of them never will attend.

Republicans want the government to have the authority to treat Central American kids the same way as kids from Mexico, who can be removed quickly unless they convince Border Patrol that they have a fear of return that merits additional screening.

"I think clearly we would probably want the language similar to what we have with Mexico," Boehner said.

White House officials have said they support such changes and indicated last week that they would be offering them along with the emergency spending request. But immigration advocates objected strongly, saying children would be denied legal protections, and the White House has not yet made a formal proposal.

The position Graham and other key Republican lawmakers play will likely reverberate come 2016.


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