July 24, 2014

GOP Proposes Immigration Bills, While Perry Deploys National Guard

Rumblings of reform begin again in Congress, but “doing something” isn’t on Obama’s agenda.

As tens of thousands of children stream unaccompanied across our southern border, and tens of thousands of additional adults with children join them, Congress is headed for a policy collision that will likely happen just before August recess, though it almost surely won’t be resolved until after the November election. Barring actual enforcement by the president who would rather use his infamous pen to override laws than enforce them, states along our nation’s southern border will be left to clean up the humanitarian crisis brought on by this administration’s failure to enforce immigration laws.

Since October, more than 57,000 unaccompanied children and adults with children have been apprehended at the border, and the Border Patrol estimates that by the end of September, 90,000 more unaccompanied minors will attempt to cross the border. As few as 2% have been returned home. Far beyond the obvious breach of and contempt for the law, the president’s negligence in carrying out the duty of the Executive Branch has led to thousands of children wandering into a foreign land with little to no protection.

This week, a Republican task force, led by Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX), presented its recommendations for addressing the crisis – recommendations that include deploying National Guard troops to the border, sending additional immigration judges to handle asylum claims, implementing “aggressive messaging campaigns” in the children’s countries of origin to warn of the dangers of entering the United States illegally, and increasing border security. “Our focus has been to ensure the safety of the children and it has remained a top priority throughout the process,” Granger said. “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 countries involved in this crisis.”

A key sticking point for Democrats in the Republicans’ recommendations, however, is changing a 2008 anti-trafficking law that prevents the quick deportation of unaccompanied children from countries not bordering the United States. Democrat leaders had previously suggested they were open to revising the law. And even Barack Obama, in a June 30, 2014 letter to Congress, wrote that he supported “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.” However, as Democrats see political advantage in tugging on the nation’s heartstrings over these children (whose plight is indeed real), opposition to changing the 2008 law grows and the president appears to be backtracking from his support.

Meanwhile, Texas Gov. Rick Perry is tired of waiting for either Congress or the president to act. On Monday, he announced that he would send up to 1,000 National Guard troops to the border to mitigate the crisis. Since the troops are not authorized to arrest illegal immigrants, they are being deployed not to apprehend children but to weed out drug cartels and other criminals. The Border Patrol – and, specifically, the union representing the Border Patrol – claims National Guard troops will provide little benefit and will divert resources from apprehending individuals. Meanwhile, Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) insists the “Border Patrol does not need interference from either Governor Perry or vigilantes.”

Given that Washington has done virtually nothing to help the Border Patrol fulfill its mission, we’d argue that a bit of state “interference” might be exactly what’s needed. At the very least, Perry has demonstrated interest in enforcing our nation’s laws, which is more than can be said of Obama – who this month traveled to Texas for fundraisers and photo-ops instead of visiting the site of the crisis his dereliction of duty has so greatly compounded.

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