Be careful what you wish for, or, in the case of the Republicans, ask for.
In response to the "humanitarian crisis," as the president defines it – the growing influx of illegal immigrant children flowing into the U.S. – Republicans blame the president, but repeat nothing other than their "secure the borders" mantra. Never mind that our border with Mexico alone is nearly 2000 miles long. Never mind that areas with secured borders already do not prevent people from coming here illegally. And never mind the cost to build such a fence; heck, even the Great Wall of China didn't prevent China's enemies from entering.
Yesterday, the White House requested $3.7 billion in emergency funding from Congress in response to the Republican request for the president to deal with the huge influx of children from Central America, mostly from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. (More than 52,000 unaccompanied minors and 39,000 women with children have been apprehended on the southern border this year alone.) Republicans cry out for the president to do something, and quickly, but are already showing doubt that this proposal will be approved. So much for the urgency; must be an election year.
In 2008, Congress approved legislation that prevents the president from automatically deporting all of these children. And a fence or wall along the border does not address the thousands of children already here in detention centers. The law states the children must be detained and must appear before an immigration judge. But the reality is that the immigration courts are clogged and backlogged for years; more judges are needed and more detention centers built to hold these children until their day in court actually arrives.
The funding would assist with building more detention centers, adding more immigration judges, beefing up border patrols and air surveillance as well. This will help speed up the deportations. Republicans want the National Guard to step in, but that won't help with the detention or the clogged courts or the deportations of these minors.
Republicans don't want to give the president a blank check. They want more details. I thought they wanted these children deported?
And although Republicans want to blame the president, they need only to look in the mirror if they're searching for who to blame. The president has made a long effort to get the House to support a comprehensive immigration bill that would address many of these issues that Republicans are currently complaining about.
And we cannot overlook the law signed in 2008 by former President George W. Bush making it nearly impossible to repatriate unaccompanied minors to Central America without letting them appear before an immigration judge. This law has tied the hands of our president; it could be rewritten or "repealed and replaced," as they say, by our current Congress. Where is their plan? Where is the legislation? What has been put to a vote on the House floor? Nothing.
We also have to take into consideration the reality that these are children. Someone sent them here, and not all of them were sent by their parents. I am sure that some were abused; some have even alleged abuse while in those detention centers. What we have here is not just illegal immigration, but human trafficking, by smugglers, profiting from putting many of these children in harm's way. Were any of these children kidnapped or abducted? Possibly. And of course, there are some that could be considered refugees, who would be harmed if they are to be returned to their home country.
Organized crime groups in Central American use the slow legal process in America to exploit these children. Smugglers charge thousands of dollars to bring a child to the U.S. border. I would imagine there are many lies they tell these parents, desperate to provide a better life for their children; sometimes that better life is just to be fed three meals a day. And although there are investigators trying to find and break up these smuggling networks, that too costs money.
The president has asked Congress to change the law. He asked them to give the head of Homeland Security greater discretion regarding the deportation of these children. That too fell on deaf ears, even from the president's fellow Democrats. But if lawmakers consider this a crisis and if members of Congress wants these children deported, their choices are simple: provide the funding to get the kids through the process, or change the law
For as the law now stands, those children are guaranteed access to a federal asylum officer. They are also given the chance to tell a U.S. immigration judge their story. Were they victims of a crime? Did they face abuse? Were they victims of sex trafficking? What happens to them if they are sent home? And keep in mind, if, after hearing their story, a judge finds their claims of abuse credible, they could be granted a waiver from deportation and be allowed to stay.
We also do not want them sent back home to abuse, to drug dealers, to pimps, to pedophiles, to sex traffickers. That's exactly why the 2008 legislation was written, approved and signed into law.
Former Democratic Rep. Howard L. Berman was one of the sponsors of the law. He said it was necessary to protect children. "What do you do with the ones that come from Central America? Do you load them all on a plane and see who comes and meets them at the airport?" he asked.
Good question. I hope the Republicans have an answer for that one. America is waiting.