Children are pawns in immigration games

Undocumented Central American children have become pawns in the immigration games at the U.S.-Mexican border.

Undocumented Central American children have become pawns in the immigration games at the U.S.-Mexican border.

Murrieta, Calif., grabbed the headlines last week with angry protesters blocking busloads of undocumented Central American immigrants. The buses were and are transferring immigrants, mostly children, from overcrowded detention facilities along the border to facilities in southern California. I’ve nothing but sympathy for the protesters who are fed up with illegals streaming across our border and who are now faced with busloads of even more illegals.

Many of the immigrants are minors unaccompanied by adults. They’ve been sent by their parents to make the long, hazardous journey from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador to the U.S. purportedly to escape drug traffickers and gang violence. But many are also from parts of those countries where poverty alone is the driving force. Some have been duped by smugglers who charge as much as $6,000 to transport a child to this country. Many have heard rumors that once a child enters the U.S., he or she will be allowed to stay (thus establishing a foothold for relatives). Many hope to get here in time to be included in any new immigration legislation. And they’re all gaming the system, exploiting either ignorance and desperation or our inadequate, outdated immigration laws and porous border to achieve their own ends.

Currently the immigrants are being processed in overcrowded centers along the border. They appear before judges to explain why they have come to the U.S., are given a document telling them when and where to appear for their deportation hearings, and are released to make their way to relatives across the U.S. or be put into foster homes. For most it will be a year or more before their hearings.

And that’s it. They’ve made it. They are in the U.S., free to move around, to go to relatives or elsewhere. Why on earth would they voluntarily appear for some future court date so they could be deported? Quite simply, they won’t. Most will fade into the shadows with all the other illegal immigrants in this country.

The immigrant children claim they are refugees from the violence in their home countries and under the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 must be given a court hearing before being deported or allowed to stay. Some reports say they could wait as long as three years for those court hearings because of the backlog that now exists. An estimated 52,000 have been taken into custody since October. That’s double last year’s total and 10 times the number from 2009, according to an NPR overview of the crisis. CNN says 60,000 to 80,000 are expected to cross into the U.S. this year.

As thousands more enter the U.S. every day, the debate rages and the problem grows. Are these truly refugees deserving of sanctuary like the Cubans in the 1980 Mariel boatlift, or are they just more illegal aliens trying to take advantage of the chaotic situation and the many holes in our laws and border?

Pres. Obama is asking Congress for more money to deal with the crisis ($3.7 billion!) and an amendment to the 2008 law to expedite the repatriation of the children. But that will be expensive and time-consuming, if it happens at all. Instead of transporting these children hundreds of miles from one overcrowded facility to another, and caring for and housing them for indeterminate periods, it would be cheaper and faster to just put them on planes or buses back to their home countries. Rapid repatriation would also help stem the tide of incoming aliens and make it clear to Central American parents that children are not being allowed to stay here.

The problem is, of course, infinitely more complex than this and my opposition to illegals staying in this country precedes the current crisis. With the possible exception of the Dreamers — those brought here by their parents many years ago — I think that, in theory if not in practice, illegals should be deported. They’re knowingly, intentionally breaking the law by being here. I’m not sympathetic to those who decry the breaking up of families; they created that problem for themselves. And I’m not sympathetic to parents who would send their minor children alone to travel more than 1,500 miles to enter a country illegally.

I am, however, sorry for the kids. The adults in their lives have put them in this position. Deliberately and with forethought. Adults are using them as pawns in a variety of immigration games and border intrigue. But they are still here illegally. They have to go back. And the sooner the better.

I blame the president for creating/maintaining an environment conducive to this crisis by not strictly enforcing our existing immigration laws and border, and I blame Congress for not acting decisively on new legislation to clarify and strengthen our immigration laws. Continued inaction now can only be the crass partisan politics of an election year.

 



Categories: immigration, Law

12 replies

  1. This is a horrible mess. There are 3 shelter/processing centers in the area – and they are looking for more (considering a school that was closed 14 years ago as “unfit” for students…closed up here mean mold probably…great stressed kids already exposed to contagious diseases, poor diet, and weakened immune systems…yeah, that’s thoughtful) This is hurricane area with mandator evacuations frequently called – power outages, flooding – how smart is it to locate them here?
    Better to fly them home immediately and tell their gov. they will be left at the airports for them to manage.
    MX is allowing them passage on forged documents – and will not allow the US border patrol to put them back across the border immediately as “they are not Mexicans and do not have proper documents” Great.
    Many of these are children of immigrants already here – trying to get them here as families tend to get to stay – and it’s easy to disappear in the US.
    Many are 13-18 yrs old some holding their own kids in their arms…these are not children as our US 13-18 yrs are. Their life experiences have then far more mature. These “kids” are very street wise and “grown” – if placed in foster homes, you think they will stay if unhappy? And at 18 they will age out of the foster system – will they have enough English/education/skills to be productive citizens by then? Oh, and local CPS have been begging for people to be foster parents – they don’t have enough foster parents for the kids born here.
    Total mess.
    Put the national guard on the border now. Load immigrants on planes for home – not for places inside the US borders.
    Maybe that will get your request for money serious consideration. Mr President,please show specifically how will be spent – (just like you/fed agencies demand from those applying for grants/ for research). No one trust vague promises enough for blank checks anymore.
    We need a clear immigration policy – with processing centers at border – with health checks like there used to be. Worker programs can work – but not unless this flood of people is stopped first.
    Great post.

    • Definitely need those health checks. Most of those kids have probably not been vaccinated for anything and could catch all sorts of things. Or spread them. Especially when crowded together in large numbers in those holding facilities.

      Good point about the hurricanes. Evacuations are tough enough without having to clear out thousands of immigrants. If they’re moved at all for processing, it should be out of hurricane zones. Except, of course, like Murrieta, other locations are already overflowing with illegals and don’t want any more.

      We’re already flying and busing them around to various facilities. Why not just route those planes and buses to Central America? Oh yeah, those shortsighted laws of ours.

      They — the immigrants, the gangs, the smugglers, all of them — have finally hit upon a way to get into the country. Just flood the border with bodies. They see now that we can’t handle it. Many will be sent back, but many will get through and will stay.

      It’s an insane problem, brought about by the usual culprit, Unforeseen Consequences. Of the 2008 law. Of lesser laws. Of news laws dangled but not delivered. And Congress just sits there with their heads lodged, pointing fingers because it’s an election year. Paid handsomely to be our elected representatives and conduct the country’s business. But doing nothing! This problem has been developing and growing for several years, but Congress has done nothing!

      And by the way, I’m not at all happy that Obama would get as close as Austin and still not put in an appearance at the border. I understand his rationale about not doing just another photo op, but sometimes a situation demands a presidential appearance, and I think this is such a time.

  2. I’m reminded of those “please help the poor, starving children” ads I’ve been seeing for as long as I can remember PT. Surely enough money has been donated by now to have cured most, if not all, the ills in every third world country in the world, had it only been put to good use. I suppose we should consider ourselves lucky that the trip here was so much more difficult to make for the kids in Africa, India and Bangladesh…

  3. I blame the president for creating/maintaining an environment conducive to this crisis by not strictly enforcing our existing immigration laws and border, and I blame Congress for not acting decisively on new legislation to clarify and strengthen our immigration laws.

    Your post is a good summation of the problem, in my opinion, except for laying the above on the president. Allow me to ask, just how would you have acted differently in “enforcing our existing immigration laws” than he has? The border with Mexico is some 2,000 miles long and there’s high fencing along only a small part of it. And there’s sure not enough manpower to surveil much of it within the funds allocated by Congress. Then, here come the women and children wading across the Rio Grand. Obviously we can shoot them or plant land mines, as the East Germans did in Berlin. Philo would put them on planes and ship them back to Central America. What then, leave them on the tarmac at an airport? What a great photo-op that would be! Those countries have no responsible governments.

    It is wrong, I submit, to blame the president for any of this. He and the Democratic Senate have had a bill to reform immigration pending before the House for a long time now, one that would pass if the GOP leadership would permit a vote. They stubbornly will not. In the meantime, he has asked the party of NO for enough money to do just what you are demanding, beef up the border even more and in the meantime, enforce the law that George W. Bush signed, as he is required by his oath of office to do.

    This is not one of those “both sides are guilty” problems, which seems to be a knee-jerk reaction to everything bad that happens these days. I simply can’t let it go this time.

    • I don’t think the problem is nearly as simple as just saying it’s because the GOP won’t pass the immigration bill. The president is the executive; the buck stops with him. I think he’s been weak when it comes to wheeling and dealing in Congress and knocking heads together when necessary. I think he and the Democrats have appeared (appearances count) too willing to accommodate illegals in this country instead of deporting them.

      As for leaving kids on the tarmac, I’ve already seen one scene of a kid arriving back in his hometown on the bus and his mother was there to meet him. No reason other parents can’t be notified the same way. And in any case, if those kids can travel alone from Central America to Texas, they can surely get from the local bus station or airport to their homes.

      I don’t know the particulars but I’m sure more manpower could be put on the border, more cameras installed, etc. I’ve no objection to mining the river, now that you mention it. Just make sure there are plenty of warning signs. And if governors like Jan Brewer want to help protect their own border with Mexico, let them. It’s ridiculous for the government to plead lack of manpower for enforcement while at the same time forbidding enforcement by local authorities.

      • I respect your opinion and you might note that nowhere have I disagreed with the need to deport illegal children as long as it’s according to a just process. But, actually land-mining the Rio Grande? To me, that’s cold. And hell, I’m not even religious.

        But to the central point of my previous comment, I am puzzled by your insistence that Obama could have “wheeled and sealed” and “knocked heads” in Congress. The Executive branch is co-equal to the Legislative, not superior (I know you know this). Congress has the purse strings and the president can not formulate law nor dictate a budget. Legislatively, he can only veto what Congress sends him. He can issue Executive Orders and he has done that, albeit less than his predecessors. As you know, Speaker Boehner and his brethren have decided to sue him for doing even that much while at the same time decrying his lack of action. It’s bizarre. And, this Congress is on track not only for not cooperating with the Executive but for being the least productive in history, such is the Tea Party hatred (not too strong a word, IMO) for this president.

        • Of course I’m not saying mine the Rio Grande to get the children. But I think it’s not that radical an idea to consider as part of an overall strategy to discourage illegals from trying to cross the river in those areas that can’t be watched all the time.

          I just don’t think Obama has been a particularly strong president. He’s not like a lot of presidents who go into “smoke-filled rooms” and back halls with various members of Congress to twist arms, call in favors, and negotiate deals (ala LBJ, although I didn’t like LBJ at all). He’s been aloof from that sort of politicking, and it sounds like that’s really what’s been needed to try to break the stalemate. It’s part of the downside of being elected as a young man, new to Washington, before having made a lot of friends and deals on the hill. I’m well aware of how recalcitrant this Congress has been, but there’s more to it than just blaming the current GOP delegation for everything.

  4. For a journalist’s take on the child crisis, rather parallel with mine but better worded, I recommend this link:

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/07/10/the-so-called-immigration-border-crisis-is-neither.html

    • I like Sally Kohn and she does a good job of presenting her viewpoint. However, immigration happens to be one of those topics where my view is more conservative than liberal. Yes, the Republicans are obstructionists and they should stop the blame game, cooperate with the Dems, and fix our immigration system and laws. But I disagree with her statement, “We can’t keep holding out America as a shining beacon for freedom and opportunity around the globe and then suddenly shut the lights off when people show up at our door trusting us to make good on those values.” Yes we can. America is not a free banquet open to anyone who walks in illegally. There are proper channels for entering the country legally, and the world knows it. I have no sympathy for illegal aliens. The law needs to be amended to process those children as quickly as possible and send them back where they came from.

"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." ~ Edmund Burke

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