House Republicans offered a dozen recommendations Wednesday to address the illegal immigration crisis. “Our focus has been to ensure the safety of the children and it has remained a top priority throughout this process,” said task force leader Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX). “In our personal meetings with the Presidents of Honduras and Guatemala they both stated that they wanted their children back, and we believe that is in the best interest of all the countries involved in this crisis. We look forward to working with these countries as they prepare to receive their children back.”
The recommendations offer a mixture of strategies that include more forceful border control and the elimination of intra-governmental turf fights interfering with Customs and Border Protection (CBP) operations on federal land. Border enforcement in Mexico and Central America, along with repatriation centers for minors set up in those countries are also part of the mix, as is an aggressive messaging campaign clarifying the downside of illegal immigration. Other recommendations include an acceleration of immigration hearings by adding additional judges to hear asylum requests, including a mandate to process “family units” within 5-7 days, tougher penalties on human traffickers, aka coyotes, and initiating law enforcement operations in both Mexico and Central America to stop the tide of illegals before they reach the U.S. border.
The primary recommendation for altering the current equation is a revision of the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 that would allow children from Central America to be processed and deported as quickly as those from Canada and Mexico. A revision of the anti-trafficking law is a critical necessity. Despite admirable intentions when it was enacted six years ago, the latest onslaught of 57,000 unaccompanied alien children (UACs) over the last nine months—more than seven times average number that came across the border each year prior to the law’s enactment—has rendered it obsolete.
The numbers tell the story: of those 57,000 UACs only 2,000 have been repatriated and immigration courts are overwhelmed with a backlog of more than 350,000 cases. As a result it will be years before many of these children will be called to show up for their day in court.
If they show up at all. Juan Osuna, who heads the Justice Department’s immigration courts, revealed the predictable truth at a recent congressional hearing, telling lawmakers that 46 percent of UACs failed to appear at their hearings between the start of the FY2014 last Oct. 1 and the end of June. And even when they do appear and get a deportation order or are allowed to return home voluntarily, there is no guarantee that they will abide by the law. In FY 2013 two-thirds of the 6,437 cases adjudicated reached that outcome, but data from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) shows that only 1,600 children actually returned home.
House Republican address this reality as well. UACs who do not wish to be voluntarily returned to their home country must remain in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) while awaiting an immigration court hearing that must occur no more than 7 days after they are screened by HHS.
That last item is as critical as changing the anti-trafficking law. Right now the Obama administration is dispersing thousands of UACs and other illegals throughout the nation in an effort that facilitates the human trafficking they claim to oppose. That reality was affirmed by Mark Greenberg, Health and Human Services Acting Assistant Secretary for the Administration for Children and Families, at a Senate hearing earlier this month. Under questioning he admitted that it was policy not to verify the immigration status of those to whom the children were being released.
Furthermore, the government doesn’t even run fingerprint checks on every potential sponsor who arrives to claim a child. According to HHS spokesman Kenneth Wolfe, such checks are limited to those sponsors who aren’t parents or legal guardians, if the child is under the age of 12 or if they “detect” other safety concerns. The only all encompassing criterion is a public records check of each sponsor. After that they hand the sponsor a handbook dealing with the child’s right to enroll in school and offering warnings regarding trafficking and traumatic stress. With such minimal oversight it is no surprise that a nonprofit warned that as many as one-in-ten children end up in unacceptable or dangerous conditions.
There is little doubt that amending the 2008 law, coupled with keeping UACs and other aliens in custody until their immigration hearings, would be enormous disincentives with regard to the current status quo that encourages thousands to risk life and limb to get here. Thus it is totally unsurprising that Democrats are against the GOP plan in general, and amending the law in particular. “Almost every Democrat I talk to says we should hold the line on the laws passed to protect children from sex trafficking and smugglers,” said Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) who also accused Republicans of trying to “exploit” the border crisis. “The Republicans seem to be divided between the ones who don’t think the money is necessary, the ones who want to weaken laws protecting children and the ones who want to deport all of the DREAMers and other undocumented immigrants before we do anything else,” he added.
The price tag for the GOP’s plan is $1.5 billion in emergency funding they would offset with spending cuts. It stands in sharp contrast to the president’s $3.7 billion request that is best summed up by Center for Immigration Studies fellow Dan Cadman who analyzed the package. He called it a “closed circle of illogic” in which the government “takes a hands-off approach to the UACs being smuggled, and after a few days of detention and make-work processing, passes them over to the ones who initiated the venture.” Moreover, it scrupulously avoids addressing any changes to the 2008 law, as once again Democrats, lead by the president of the United States, insist their orchestrated humanitarian crisis be addressed before the border breakdown that feeds and worsens it.
And make no mistake: it is an orchestrated crisis because it is occurring even as crime rates in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador—that Democrats like to cite as the primary impetus for the surge—have been declining for the last two years, even as the number of UACs coming to America has skyrocketed in the same time frame. The real impetus behind the surge is what it has always been: President Obama’s unilateral legalization of Dreamers in 2012, coupled with just released data showing a marked decrease in the number of children turned away at the border. In 2008, the last year of the George W. Bush administration, there were 8,143 turn-a-ways. Last year there were only 1,669. There has also been a decrease from the 600 minors ordered to be deported each year from non-border states 10 years ago, to the paltry 95 deported in 2013.
Add the administration’s determination to conspicuously ignore an agreement between Mexico and Guatemala facilitating the passage of UACs through Mexico on their way to the United States—which Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto insists will be expanded to include Honduras and El Salvador “to make Central American migration more organized and safer”—and the message remains clear: if you get here, chances are excellent you can stay here.
In addition, Senate Democrats are formulating a $2.7 billion plan of their own that omits any effort to amend the trafficking bill. That means even under the best of circumstances, some sort of reconciliation process between the two chambers will have to take place before anything meaningful can happen. That reality pokes a giant hole in incoming House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s (R-CA) hopes that any bill will be voted on before Congress recesses in August.
It’s not going to happen.
Thus the massive influx of 57,000 UACs–along with the additional 240,000 illegals that have arrived here from April through June, yet somehow remain largely under the media radar–will continue. There is little doubt that under-reported reality would take much of the air out of the “humanitarian” balloon, as would multiplying the three-month influx by four to reach an annual total of nearly 1.2 million illegals who could come across our Southwest border, if the current rate remains constant.
And why shouldn’t it remain constant? We have a president who won’t even visit the border, much less act on a crisis of national proportions. We have a Democratic Party pushing that president to expand his Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) plan to include their parents, as well as halt further deportations. We have an Obama administration looking to put illegals in the military, even as it aims to cut the military to pre-WWII levels.
In short, the entire nation is being held hostage to a despicable leftist agenda, aided and abetted by an equally compromised GOP Establishment: either Americans embrace comprehensive immigration reform, or the Cloward-Piven-inspired, “crash the system” chaos at the border will continue. The dispersal of illegals, not just to questionable individuals, but to locations in towns and cities throughout the nation, will continue. The aiding and abetting of human trafficking by our own government will continue. The utter contempt for the rule of law and our national sovereignty will continue.
A letter signed by the governors of Alabama, Kansas, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Utah and Wisconsin was sent to President Obama this week. “The failure to return the unaccompanied children will send a message that will encourage a much larger movement towards our southern border,” it stated. Exactly.
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