Leaky borders have flooded the country with immigration debates
By Alex Culpepper
Immigration is in the news again, but that shouldn’t be a surprise in a country with a history of 400 years of people coming and going. They have come from virtually everywhere and for every reason; sometimes they’ve been viewed suspiciously, and other times maybe not so much. Lately, the focus has been on Central Americans and their movement to the States – with the spotlight mostly on the Southwest and the towns that have seen thousands of immigrants come and go over the last few weeks and months.
Arizona, California and Texas have been the main hosts to these Central American immigrants who are mostly unaccompanied children, but some adults are in the mix, too. The federal government has been warehousing these children in detainment centers, and usually one of two things happens to them: either they face an immigration judge or they get deported to somewhere else. But even the existence of these centers and the people they house are stirring some emotional reactions and complicating immigration reform. Protests on either side of the issue are forming because some people want to help these children, while others just don’t want them here.
Opponents of the government taking in the immigrants want these busloads of kids to stop coming, they want the ones here to be deported and they want the borders protected from illegal traffic. They believe this is an invasion of the country, leaving the United States overwhelmed by illegal aliens and possible terrorist cells. Opponents also worry about public safety and public health issues with detainment and support of those entering the country. They cite problems with drugs, gang connections and the possible spread of diseases. They further say the housing, transportation and any other assistance the immigrants receive are being funded by taxpayer dollars and is not good.
Advocates of welcoming the immigrants call this a refugee crisis, and say the United States cannot turn its back on children fleeing desperate situations in which their lives are in danger. They argue many of these children are attempting to reunite with family who have already made to the United States, and turning them back would be a humanitarian disaster. They say the government needs to continue, if not speed up, the legal process of getting these people through the immigration system. They also argue the United States simply has a legacy of welcoming immigrants, and to turn them away violates what the country stands for.
Regardless of beliefs about the issue, the government does have a tough problem on its hands with this sudden rush of immigrants. One report claims 1,000 children per day are coming across the border, and it seems generally agreed upon the government needs to do something more substantial, whether it’s in the form of fast and furious deportation or a quick and comprehensive citizen sign up.
Reach DCP forum moderator Alex Culpepper at AlexCulpepper@DaytonCityPaper.com
Debate Forum Question of the Week:
There has been an influx of children from regions south of the U.S. border. The president, Democrats and Republicans differ on the solution. What IS the solution?
Debate Right: Who are the real misfits?
By Marianne Stanley
There is one sure-fire way to know whether someone is a Democrat or a Republican. But let’s save that for the end of this column.
The issue raised this week is about our immigration crisis. As the violence increases exponentially in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, tens of thousands of citizens from those countries are fleeing, embarking on a 1,500-mile perilous journey to the United States. Many never make it. They are robbed or even killed along the way.
Our Statue of Liberty proclaims “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Give these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”
Only, not really.
Our “Land of the Free” has turned into an inhospitable, vapid place, where even those who make it all the way here are arrested and put into jails and jail-like facilities. They are treated more like criminals than refugees.
Countries much poorer than ours choose hospitality over harshness, providing housing, food, medical care, education and even spending-money for those who have fled untenable situations at home. Turkey and Jordan, for instance, have set up massive refugee camps to accommodate Syrians fleeing violence. Even Mexico, unlike the far wealthier U.S., is attempting to accommodate, rather than punish, these Central Americans.
While the other countries around the world call the people streaming into their country “refugees” or “migrants” and try to treat them as guests, we are alone in our labeling them “illegal aliens” while treating them as pariahs, criminals, “the other.”
Don’t be fooled; this isn’t a money issue. It’s not like the U.S. doesn’t have enough money to care for these people, it’s that we don’t have enough heart to care for them. Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert, for instance, asserted this week the crisis of women and children coming into this country is putting “our continued existence at risk.” He then went on to call for the border states to invoke their rights under the Tenth Amendment to “declare war against a mass invasion” of refugees. And of course, he demonstrated that familiar Republican paranoia by saying the Obama administration and the Department of Homeland Security were complicit in “actually assisting the criminal conspiracy in achieving its illegal goals” by not enforcing the law. This petty Republican Right Wing is treasonous in relentlessly attempting to bring down the Obama administration, no matter the cost to our country and its people. We should all be sick to death of the never-ending negative spin and endless and ongoing fear and hate mongering. These baseless witch-hunts reveal the petulant adolescent heart of the Right Wing – unable to lose an election gracefully, incapable of thinking things through to their natural consequences and especially incapable of caring about anyone who isn’t them.
So, what should we do about this crisis? First of all, how about treating it like a crisis? This takes time, maturity, leadership, attention and careful consideration. Congressional Republicans could work to establish a workable immigration system with congressional Democrats, rather than shooting down all attempts made thus far, all the while complaining about immigrants. A knee-jerk “Send them back to where they came from,” is nothing short of cruel and stupid. Every man, woman and child has their story and their own unique circumstance that drove them so far from home. Many need asylum.
Honduras, for example, has 15 times the murder rate as the rest of the world. We need to take the time to hear their stories and slow down, rather than speed up, the hearings and deportation process. Our current system was put into place in 2008 under George W. Bush, providing for the quick deportation of Mexicans after an interview by a border patrol agent, within two days, purportedly for the purpose of determining whether the person is entitled to asylum or protection due to human trafficking or threat of death. A border patrol agent is not qualified to interview traumatized and exhausted people of all ages and both genders who fear and distrust them.
Yet, Republicans are currently rushing to pass a bill that would inflict the same craziness on Central Americans through a similarly rapid, inefficient and insufficient process, virtually guaranteeing them a return to the horrific situations that drove them to flee in the first place.
We have the money to care for these people, just as we have the money to care for our own hungry, sick, homeless and unemployed, if only the political heads were screwed on right. But will we or will our tax money continue to flow unjustly to corporate interests and our war machine instead of into job creation, infrastructure and the very real needs of our people?
The answer depends on just how soulless we are and are willing to become. America has become a place many of us no longer recognize – cold, brittle, rough and mean.
So, how can you tell the difference between Republican and Democrat? Simple. Republicans are indifferent to human suffering. Their actions, policies and laws inflict pain and ignore justice. That really sucks.
Marianne Stanley is an attorney, college professor and former journalist who believes many of our nation’s ills could be cured if our children were taught critical thinking skills beginning at the elementary level and continuing through middle and high school. She can be reached at MarianneStanley@DaytonCityPaper.com.
Debate Right: Nos vemos en El Paso (Meet me in El Paso)
By David H. Landon
The growing humanitarian crisis on our southern border threatens not only the nearly 100,000 children streaming into the United States from Central American countries since last October, but also paves the way for an even greater influx of illegal aliens of all ages which will tax the ability of many states to meet the basic needs of their residents. While feigning concern about the growing crisis, there is strong evidence the policies of the Obama Administration have been the major driving force in bringing about this crisis. The Dream Act and a policy of selective enforcement of existing laws are examples of Obama’s policies which have made it loud and clear if you make it across the border, you have a good chance of staying. Obama is shaping immigration policy by executive fiat.
Recently, an intelligence report from the El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC), a widely respected intelligence analysis group initially staffed by a number of federal agencies, was leaked to the media. The report revealed homicide rates in Central America suggest violence is not likely to be the primary cause of the surge of thousands of unaccompanied minors and incomplete family units entering the United States illegally. The report also stated the migrants cited Univision and other media outlets as having shaped their views on U.S. immigration policy. Another implication of the report is family members already in the U.S. are encouraging the minors to come and are organizing the travel with smugglers, based upon their expectation Obama would not deport them. During interviews, the illegal immigrants overwhelmingly stated they came because of policies forbidding those accompanied by children from being turned away.
“Of the 230 total migrants interviewed, 219 cited the primary reason for migrating to the United States was the perception of U.S. immigration laws granting free passes or permisos to UAC and adult female OTMs traveling with minors,” the report reads.
One section of the EPIC report discussed the lack of correlation between violence rates in Central America and the current border crisis. The argument by the left is these children are refugees and America has a long tradition of taking in refugees. While these children are not coming from ideal environments, it’s inaccurate to portray them as refugees from violence. They are, in reality, coming because the perception by the Obama administration is if you make it into the country, you have a strong possibility of staying.
According to the Washington Post, the Obama Administration was warned last year in a report by the Department of Homeland Security a huge influx of unaccompanied children would soon be at our southern door. Even earlier than that, there were trending reports delivered to the White House there was a crisis brewing and thousands of unaccompanied children would soon be showing up. As early as 2012 the first ladies of Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico reported to the White House “worrisome statistics” showing an upswing in unaccompanied minors in April of that year. About that same time, Texas Gov. Rick Perry wrote a letter informing the president the number of unaccompanied Central American minors crossing the border was up 90 percent from the previous year. How did Obama and his administration respond? He called it a “local problem.”
In addition to failing to respond to reports which predicted this huge increase in children arriving at the border, the Obama administration continues to issue directives to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) which exacerbates the crisis. For example, the “Family Interest Directive,” which was issued by Obama in August of 2013, essentially forbids an ICE agent from deporting, arresting or even detaining any illegal immigrant who is the caretaker of a child. That includes parents, legal guardians and even unrelated adults who merely claim they care for the child in question. And suddenly, as you would expect, illegal immigrant children have become a hot commodity for smugglers. Unrelated adults and coyotes use them for border crossings. Once safely across, they abandon them at the border. Parents – who in the past would have left their children behind, crossed the border and then sent money home – are now bringing them along for protection from deportation. The Department of Homeland Security says the unprecedented deluge of unaccompanied minors began in October of 2013. Not coincidently, that’s just two months after the directive was issued.
So, what conclusion can we draw from all of this? We can certainly determine in viewing this “crisis” the Obama administration had ample warning of the upward trend of unaccompanied children crossing the border and ignored it. Perhaps Obama believes a crisis would force the hand of the Republican Congress to pass sweeping immigration reform. If that was the plan, it’s not working. Polling would indicate the president is getting the blame. His answer is to spend another $4 billion, but not make any serious attempt to seal the border. I think the evidence goes beyond an incompetent response by Obama. Instead, this was a carefully orchestrated policy by Obama to achieve his plan for amnesty and open borders.
In the end, we are either a sovereign nation with recognized and enforceable borders, or we are not. Two more years of these policies and I believe the answer will be the latter.
David H. Landon is the former Chairman of the Montgomery County Republican Party Central Committee. He can be reached at DaveLandon@DaytonCityPaper.com.