Washington (CNN) – Under pressure from Hispanic lawmakers and outside immigration advocates House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi has changed her position on a key flashpoint in the debate over the border crisis.
Pelosi indicated Wednesday she opposes altering a 2008 immigration law that would expedite the deportation of children crossing the southwest border from Central American countries.
Just last week Pelosi said adding that change to a border funding bill was "not a deal breaker." But on Wednesday she came out against a bipartisan bill sponsored by Texas Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar and Texas GOP Sen. John Cornyn to modify the 2008 law. Their proposal would eliminate part of the anti-human trafficking law that mandates all unaccompanied minors not from Mexico or Canada who enter the United States illegally get a hearing before an immigration judge before being returned home.
Pelosi's spokesman released a statement saying "Leader Pelosi opposes this legislation as it is not in furtherance of due process for these children."
But the statement also suggested Pelosi could accept some type of modification, adding, “if any changes to the 2008 law are made, they must ensure due process for these children.”
The GOP-led House is expected to consider a pared-down spending bill from the $3.7 billion package the White House requested to address the border situation. Republican leaders plan to attach changes to the 2008 law to that funding bill.
Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, told reporters the Congressional Hispanic Caucus would tell President Barack Obama at a White House meeting on Wednesday they would vote against his request for border money if that policy change is included.
Asked if their opposition jeopardizes the administration's ability to get the money it argues is an emergency, Castro said "I can’t guess on the vote total yet, there are 435 members, but there are many Democrats who feel as if the kids should get their day in court."
Rep Luis Gutierrez, D-Illinois, told reporters that he, along with several immigration advocacy groups, met with Pelosi recently to discuss their strong opposition to the Cuellar-Cornyn bill, and urge leaders to oppose it.
Some Hispanic members are expressing frustration that the White House floated the idea that it would include a change in the law as part of its $3.7 billion request for emergency money. It didn't, but administration officials, like Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, continue to say they support Congress altering the law.
"The mixed messages – at least for the Hispanic Caucus – kind of made us feel like we were standing alone," Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Arizona, told CNN.
Grijalva said seeing the Cuellar-Cornyn legislation on paper helped rally outside groups and progressive and Hispanic caucus Democrats to draw the line and oppose any effort to tie any emergency border money to a provision to change the 2008 law. "It was so bad that is helped.”
The Arizona Democrat said he and others feel protecting the law is more important that approving the money that the President wants to address the situation at the border.
"The girding underneath this whole issue is race, and that's becoming more of a unifying issue in the Hispanic community because they see this – whether you are third, fourth, fifth, sixth generation – the treatment, the demonizing of these children, the whole ugly debate around immigration, is for some citizens, it's also a civil rights issue."