The immigration debate of whether Congress will act on comprehensive immigration reform or whether President Obama will take executive action to change immigration law has taken a dramatic turn with the sudden surge of undocumented children crossing the southern border into the United States.
Now, a President who once wished to take action to provide a path to legalization to the millions of undocumented immigrants in the United States, has now promised to quickly deport the people who are crossing our borders in great numbers from Central America.
Before this surge, illegal border crossings had actually been dropping. The lower numbers were the result of stricter enforcement and more border patrol agents along the border. An interesting point regarding the children crossing the border is that they are taking advantage of an immigration law that Congress passed in 2008, when George Bush was President. The law provides protection for children to ensure that they are not victims of trafficking. These children are permitted to have their case heard before an Immigration Judge, many of them asking for political asylum.
The sudden surge in children and families from countries like Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras is due, largely in part, to poverty, gang violence, and parents’ desire to send their children to a safe haven. Children are being recruited by gangs, killed, and raped and worse in these Central American countries.
Opponents of President Obama, however, blame him for this surge in border crossings based on his executive action that created legal status for some early childhood arrivals in the form of deferred action known as DACA. What these opponents fail to recognize or admit is that the children currently crossing the border do not qualify for DACA because one of the requirements are that they were present in the United States in 2007 before they were 16 years old.
President Obama has asked Congress to authorize 3.7 billion in spending to help with this immigration crisis. Part of the money would be used to help deport people back to their countries. There is also a call to change the 2008 law to deal with minors from these Central American countries like those from Mexico who are sent back to their country much quicker. Part of the change called for is to add more immigration judges and to allow more applications for refugee status to be processed in the Central American countries. As it stands now, the Department of Homeland Security is processing these recent arrivals ahead of an otherwise overwhelmed immigration court system so that it may show others thinking of making the dangerous border crossing that their efforts will be futile.
Of course, any change in the 2008 law would have to result from an agreement of members of Congress which is unlikely since they have not to date shown that they can come to consensus when it comes to immigration.