(NBC News) Washington lawmakers held a field hearing on the Texas border Thursday to examine the flood of underage immigrants from Central America.
The problem of security and logistics posed by the influx has exploded into a humanitarian crisis with a billion-dollar price tag.
Children and families are overwhelming processing centers.
"These are the most orderly, behaved children who simply want an opportunity to be free from the murderous conditions from which they flee. I ask the question, is not America that great?" asked Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee.
But allowing those children to remain, Texas Governor Rick Perry testified, would only encourage more to come.
"If we do not today clearly send a message you cannot come into the United States just because somebody is handing out a flyer, then this is only going to get worse," Perry said.
The government says more than 50,000 children and 39,000 women with children have been apprehended at the border this year alone.
Lawmakers have four work weeks left before their summer recess, and if they don't take action, President Obama says he will.