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 And they’re all gaming the system, exploiting either ignorance and desperation or our inadequate, outdated immigration laws and porous border to achieve their own ends.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.