This year we have witnessed an astounding surge of illegal immigration, specifically from the countries of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. It’s been estimated that over 57,000 unaccompanied minors have crossed the U.S.-Mexico border since October of last year. Consequently, state and local governments are finding themselves overwhelmed by the sudden responsibility to provide care and housing for these thousands of children and teenagers.
In response to the flood of immigration, several military bases have been designated by the government as temporary housing. In Oklahoma, roughly a thousand immigrant minors are currently staying in Fort Sill, and it remains unclear for how long. The Department of Health and Human Services has even requested to house these children through January of next year.
The sharp increase in illegal immigration has led President Obama to request $3.7 billion in emergency funding from Congress. According to the White House, the money will be used to hire more immigration judges to speed up deportation hearings, provide additional medical attention for immigrants, and pay border patrol agents overtime.
However, only a small portion of that money would be spent to address border security – the root cause of this crisis. A larger fraction of this funding would go to housing and transporting these minors to various temporary facilities within the United States.
There is nothing compassionate about the Administration’s response on this issue. President Obama’s mixed signals and refusal to fully enforce our current immigration laws has sent a green light to Central American families seeking to send their children to the United States.
Another aspect of this problem – and an area where the president can work with Congress – is a 2008 human trafficking law that has unintentionally complicated the deportation process for individuals from countries other than Mexico or Canada. Regardless of origin, all illegal immigration must be dealt with equitably.
Basically what the current situation amounts to – and the way the Administration has handled the issue – is if a minor from another country enters the United States, the government will release the child to a relative until a deportation trial months, even years later, which many do not even show up for.
These families are paying dangerous drug traffickers thousands of dollars to transport their children to our southern border. And not only will these drug traffickers continue to profit, this unchecked illegal immigration will incentivize more families to send their children on the perilous, potentially deadly, journey through Mexico to our border.
This situation has evolved into a humanitarian crisis with the potential to become even worse. If President Obama wants to send a clear message to Central America, he can start by enforcing our country’s immigration laws and working with Congress to secure the border.