The Flood of Central American Children to the US
As Central American children flood into the states, border patrol agents and politicians are scrambling to defuse the situation while Americans are asking – How exactly did this happen? Both Republicans and Democrats are heavily weighing in on the discussion, trying to discover the root of the problem.
The Republican Perspective
The Republicans are blaming this problem on the Obama Administration’s unwillingness to secure the border. Many Representatives believe that Americans are frustrated because they feel the current administration is doing nothing about border security. According to Immigration and Customs Enforcement data, immigrants deported under the age of 18 fell from 8,143 in 2008, under the Bush administration, to 1,669 last year under the Obama administration.
Even Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Texas Democrat whose district lies on the border with Mexico, agrees that the administration should have been more prepared to deal with the problem, “With all due respect to the administration, they were a step behind. They should have seen this coming a long time ago.”
Republicans also link the surge to the “deferred action” program signed in 2012 that allows children of some illegal immigrants to remain in the U.S. Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham complain that these problems are being caused by the president’s use of executive authority and willingness to work with the Republicans do not help in situations like this. They believe that more compromise in the political system in necessary.
Rick Perry has definitely taken notice of this stream of children into his state’s Southern border. He is another Republican who does not support the Obama administration’s role in this predicament, “I have to believe that when you do not respond in any way that you are either inept or you have some ulterior motive.”
The Obama Administration’s Response
In recent weeks, U.S. officials have been struggling to dispel rumors that Central American teens and children who cross the border will be allowed to stay in the country. The Obama administration continues to deny the validity of these lenient policies.
This surge has actually surprised many officials since illegal immigration has fallen overall due to the lack of job opportunities. The Obama Administration, however, disputes the notion that lenient policies are the cause of this influx. Statistics actually show that Obama has boosted border security and deported a record-breaking 409,849 undocumented immigrants in 2012. Instead, they blame a 2008 law signed by Bush which expanded legal protection and made it impossible to bring unaccompanied minors back to Central America without letting them appear before an immigration judge first.
Immigration courts have additionally allowed most Central American minors to stay for years while their lengthy cases are processed through the legal system. Children who were abused or abandoned are granted “special immigrant juvenile status” to stay in the country under this law as well. Even though the 2008 law has sparked much controversy, there are still representatives that believe in its importance in helping to protect children such as U.S. Rep. Howard L. Berman.
Since the influx, the Obama administration has additionally taken measures by asking Congress to change the 2008 law to send these Central American children back to Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras through faster means. They want to find other options for processing the children. The administration will also have to ask lawmakers to cover mounting costs of the crisis such as, more staff at the border, more detention facilities, and more social workers. However, Obama is likely to face stiff opposition from Democrats that want to block any narrow changes in regards to immigration laws and changes can only be made if Congress agrees to fund these improvements.
According to David Leopold, an immigration attorney in Cleveland, the organized crime in Central America is taking advantage of the slow legal process. The smugglers are taking advantage of this and are starting to charge families up to $12,000 to deliver children to the border.
Homeland Security Secretary Jen Johnson also blames the problem on the smugglers for bringing the large number of children to the border, “The criminal smuggling organizations, are putting out a lot of disinformation about supposed ‘free passes’ in to this country that are going to expire at the end of May, at the end of June.”
Turmoil for the Central American Children
Many believe that this surge is caused by the enormous economic and humanitarian crisis in Central America. Families are attempting to escape poverty, gang violence, drug wars, and a variety of other issues that are being ignored at a national level. These problems tend to be so bad that 60 percent of immigrants are most likely fleeing conditions that warrant protection under UN policy according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. In desperation, many parents dispatch their children to the States in hopes of giving them a better future.
U.S. law, however, still does not recognize poverty as an acceptable reason to avoid deportation. Judges will only protect children from specific threats of violence. Despite the turmoil that these various Latin countries are undergoing, the U.S. has its own disastrous number of children growing up in high-violence communities. Now, many Americans are left to make the difficult choice of which Central American children deserve refuge over others in a world filled with chaos?
Alexandra Zuccaro is a recent graduate from Loyola Marymount University with a B.A in English. She a strong interest in journalism and hopes to pursue a career in the field.