The Obama administration, in a dramatic escalation of its border-control strategy, will seek
more than $2 billion in emergency funds to help stem an influx of Central American women and children entering the country illegally, as well as new measures to more quickly deport those already here, the White House confirmed Saturday.
President Obama intends to notify Congress of his request on Monday, and the administration will ask lawmakers to modify existing statutes to make it easier to return unaccompanied children to their home countries, an administration official said.The letter the President sent on Monday includes the following measures:
• providing the DHS Secretary additional authority to exercise discretion in processing the return and removal of unaccompanied minor children from non-contiguous countries like Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador; andImmigration reform advocates have strongly criticized the proposal:
• increasing penalties for those who smuggle vulnerable migrants, like children.
In addition, [the White House] will request congressional action on emergency supplemental appropriations legislation to support:
• an aggressive deterrence strategy focused on the removal and repatriation of recent border crossers;
• a sustained border security surge through enhanced domestic enforcement, including interdiction and prosecution of criminal networks;
• a significant increase in immigration judges, reassigning them to adjudicate cases of recent border crossers, and establishing corresponding facilities to expedite the processing of cases involving those who crossed the border in recent weeks;
• a stepped up effort to work with our Central American partners to repatriate and reintegrate migrants returned to their countries, address the root causes of migration, and communicate the realities of these dangerous journeys; and
• the resources necessary to appropriately detain, process, and care for children and adults.
Immigration advocates responded to the president’s proposal with immediate concern, warning that the move would force potentially endangered children into an untenable situation.
“Children will arrive traumatised, hungry, unable to speak the language, and yet they will be expected to articulate some fear of return if they’re to be allowed to come in to the U.S. That is grossly unfair and fails to recognise their capacities as children to negotiate these processes,” Wendy Young, the president of Kids in Need of Defense, a group that offers legal assistance in such situations, told journalists Monday.
“These children will have no access to counsel – nobody to advise them. It takes [Young’s office] hours and even days to understand the proceedings they’re facing, but to do this at the border with no assistance is simply impossible.”Today US Secretary of State John Kerry met with Salvadoran president Sanchez Ceren and other Central American leaders for ongoing discussions of the issue. Kerry released a statement which said:
Tens of thousands of young children are at enormous risk for their lives. They’re being exploited and they’re being put in great danger. And it’s a challenge to each of us. The United States wants to work very, very closely with our Central American partners in order to try to address this issue. This is a very complicated issue, and it’s not a question of assigning blame. The only people to blame are the criminals who exploit young children.
Each country faces special challenges, particularly our friends in Central America. There are challenges of the economy, jobs, violence, of the social inequities. And we obviously understand people who want to be able to do better and to look for a better life.
But at the same time, there are rules of law and there is a process and there is false information that is being spread about benefits that might be available to these young people who are looking for that better life. And so we need to work together, to communicate to our people, to try to apply the law, and most importantly, to work with each of these countries to address the fundamental underlying causes of this particular challenge.
Yesterday, Ambassador Tom Shannon, a counselor of the State Department, and the Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson visited the southern border of the United States in order to first-hand work with authorities to address this issue. And President Obama announced that he will be making a request of Congress for $2 billion to immediately apply to addressing the various aspects of this problem that we confront.
So I’m very grateful to our friends from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras for coming today to sit and to talk through things that we can do together, to work in a cooperative way in order to try to do better in addressing this important challenge. The lives of children cannot be put at risk this way, and we all have a responsibility as leaders to do our part in order to solve this problem. And we will.Secretary Kerry should think hard about those words "The lives of children cannot be put at risk this way." Isn't that what the United States is doing when it deports these children back to the neighborhoods where young people are some of the main victims of gang violence? Can the US, a country of 300 million people, really not absorb 50,000 children seeking refuge and a place of safety which their families have been unable to secure for them in their own countries?