Effort to Quickly Deport Child Migrants Fails to Address the Problem

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The White House informed Congress Monday that it would seek additional funding for an aggressive border enforcement strategy designed to thwart the dramatic increase in unaccompanied minors and families crossing the southwestern border, to expend more resources on fighting traffickers and drug smugglers, and to work closely with Mexico and Central American countries to end the violence and other factors driving people from their homes. The Administration has asked for at least $2 billion in supplemental funding. In addition, the White House will ask for legislative changes that will allow it to more quickly remove unaccompanied minors arriving from Central America.

While much of the requested funding is aimed at housing and other physical needs, as well as critical support for alternatives to detention, it is also designed to increase the capacity for the Department of Homeland Security and Justice Department to rapidly process and remove thousands of vulnerable migrants. The Administration reports that it plans to “surge” asylum officers and immigration judges to the border to conduct rapid hearings. The law President Obama seeks to weaken—the Trafficking Victim Protection Act—requires the government to screen children from Central America to determine whether they are victims of trafficking and to turn them over to the Office of Refugee Resettlement for temporary housing. This additional set of protections also gives them the opportunity to present other claims, such as a request for asylum, to an immigration judge. If the president succeeds in weakening those protections, it is likely that some children who are trafficking victims or have legitimate claims for asylum will instead be sent home without ever seeing an immigration judge.

Time and again, any public policy issue in the U.S. that touches upon immigration immediately is condensed to a fight over illegal immigration. Unfortunately, the administration is making that same mistake here, emphasizing a rapid process for removing those who don’t qualify for protection over the necessity of a careful process that finds the people who need it. There is no question that more funds are needed, but it is a question of emphasis and priorities. The situation along the border is first and foremost a humanitarian issue in which refugees fleeing violence are turning to the U.S. for assistance.  The children and families crossing into the U.S. right now are traumatized, exhausted, and confused.  To expect that they can coherently put together a claim for asylum or identify other forms of relief that might be available in a two-week time frame is misguided.  Accelerating the process may result in a speedier removal rate, but it will not serve justice.

Moreover, pretending that we can stop the flow of people simply by creating more onerous processes and putting even more boots on the ground simply does not work.  If people are scared or in need of protection they will come, as they always have. When people are afraid for their lives, they will seek refuge–not only in the U.S. but in other countries perceived as safe. For example, asylum applications also have jumped more than 700 percent in Mexico, Panama, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Belize since 2009. If we do not respond appropriately we risk creating an even greater crisis by returning children to violence and possible death.

Photo by Jack Mallon.

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  • William Hernandez

    The problem is with the parents that are here in the U.S illegally and pay traffickers $4000 to $7000 to bring their kids so they can be reunited with them, they put their kids in danger by doing this, I hope and pray that this administration does start the deportation process and by doing so this will put an end into all this mess that was created for not enforcing and giving more power to Immigration Agent, they should also start enforcing the law that if you hired illegals you will be find with hefty penalties. send them back and let the government of their countries deal with the problem and not us taxpayers who are paying way too much to maintain their kids that are born in this country.

    • Grissel Joana Oros-Rincon

      illegals pay for taxes too yes i understand there are some that dont for the fear of being deported but coming from a family with a few of them i have seen first hand how hard working they are and how resposible they are when it comes to taxes.. trust me not every “abiding citizen” pay taxes not to say all the US born prostitutes who make hundreds a week or those US citizens that live on welfare because they are to lazy to get up and fight… this is beyond money its how america has become heartless and only will help if it helps its image …why else would they help cubans…its simple because cuba is a communist country and its a political image plus to look how we aide them maybe all those 3rd world countries need to become communist to get the attention they need

  • Cyndi

    So sad that you think the U.S. bears no responsibility to take in refugees, especially children. Where is the value on their life? Does America just not care about living breathing children? If your child was in danger of death, what would you do? These people are human beings and have the right to seek safety. America needs to stop feeding their fear issues about poor brown kids. We let unlimited amount of Cubans in the country and give them government benefits to boot. But if you migrate from south of the border you get a boot in the ass. Does the Statue of Liberty stand for Nothing? “Give me your tired, your poor,Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,”…. I suppose that only stood for something when your ancestors migrated here back in the day!!! Immigrants once migrated in a way more open fashion before 1930, one could walk into this country, sign the book, and declare themselves citizens. Now Americans have become obsessed with their fear of losing prosperity instead of seeing the immigrant as a positive way to improve our economy. Immigrants are 80% more likely to start businesses than native born citizens. Don’t bulk at the Central American kids coming to our border seeking safety. If they have the courage to run for their lives, enduring any means necessary; then they will someday have the courage to start a business or run a corporation and some day be the job provider for your children or grandchildren.

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