A system handling just 6,000 illegal immigrant minors a decade ago is now flooded with more than 57,000 since last October, most from Central America.
President Obama wants $3.7 billion dollars in emergency funds for the final two months of this fiscal year: $1.8 billion of that to feed and house the minors. $1.2 billion for processing.
Marc Rosenblum is with the nonpartisan think tank Migration Policy Institute.
"Congress can spend money that it doesn't have," says Rosenblum. "We run a deficit in many years."
But Congress isn't even close to agreeing on how much extra money to provide.
"The President won't use what he has not to enforce the law," says Republican Congressman Randy Weber. "So we want to give him more to what, not enforce the law more?"
Weber, from Texas, says money should first come from the countries whose citizens are fleeing in droves.
"We're gonna stop your foreign aid and you're gonna pay for that until you start helping us stem the tide," says Weber. "The President has got the wherewithal, the authority, and has had the money to secure the border from day one. He refuses to do so.
The Democrat-led Senate proposed $2.7 billion dollars to cover the last two months of this fiscal year. The Republican-led House: $694 million. Of the total, Democrats would give Health and Human Services $1.2 billion more for housing and humanitarian assistance. Republicans: $197 million. Under Democrats, Homeland Security would get an extra $1.1 billion dollars. Republicans: $405 million.
But the whole issue is so contentious, the Senate didn't even vote on its plan before Congress' five-week summer vacation. Meantime, the problem, and the expenses, continue to build.
Rosenblum says they're manageable.
"The United States in terms of our population and in terms of GDP, we can handle taking care of 50,000 kids if, you know, that's what our hearts tell us to do," says Rosenblum.
"When you grow a government bureaucracy, you've got a larger criminal justice system, more immigration lawyers, more immigration judges, more immigration courthouses, a bigger system," says Weber. "The $64 dollar question, does it ever shrink back? History says it will not. That's the problem."
Even with emergency funds in limbo, the White House already announced $384 million in June for programs to help Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador--where most of the minors are said to be fleeing poverty and violence.