My experience with the immigration issue and the problems posed along the border go a lot farther back than my first political campaign.
I was born right on the Mexican border in Laredo. I spent a good part of my childhood in Venezuela because of my dad’s work in the energy business. Immigration policy was always an issue of critical importance to the Texas cities I lived in and to the district I represented in Congress for 21 years. I have been dealing with the fact that we share a border with Mexico and that people have crossed that border — legally and otherwise — literally for my entire life.
So when I look at the immigration crisis facing our country right now, and the way President Obama has fundamentally mishandled the issue, it’s from a deep perspective I don’t think too many other people can match.
There’s said to be a lull in the last few days in this summer’s flood of illegal immigrants — lone children and young families from countries such as Guatemala, Honduras and Costa Rica — inundating our borders. But when you have 600 people a day turning themselves in to the U.S. authorities at a town like McAllen, I don’t see how anyone can consider that a lull.
The immigration issue has evolved over my lifetime. At one time, the main flow of illegal border-crossers were Mexicans looking for work in America. The workers would come, but the rest of the family typically stayed home. But with the loopholes in the law and the failure to secure the border, more and more illegal immigrants were bringing their wives and extended families to the United States and the situation was getting way out of hand.
Without my vote, the Congress in 1986 passed and Ronald Reagan signed a major immigration law to basically grant amnesty to the millions here illegally in return for promises — never fulfilled — to strengthen the barriers against future illegal immigration.
The message sent then is exactly the message President Obama is sending now, a message with deep and negative consequences for our country and for the rule of law. The message to people throughout Central America was this: Just get into this country any way you can and eventually an amnesty will be proclaimed to allow you to stay.
President Obama’s repeated failures to enforce our nation’s immigration laws send that message to desperate families in countries like Honduras and Guatemala. The terrible Senate immigration “reform” bill that passed last year, with its promise of yet another amnesty, sent its own message: If you do want to stay here, do it now before the window closes on this round.
President Open Borders Obama has only exacerbated the crisis by trying to shift the focus of the current debate to the 2008 law about the treatment of the children from these countries trying to cross the border compared to children from Mexico and Canada. It frustrates me that more Republicans in Congress are not calling out the administration on this. That law was an anti-trafficking measure, targeting children caught up in sex trafficking and forced labor rings. The children that law was meant to protect were not walking up to U.S. border agents and essentially begging to be taken into custody. If the law needs amending, Congress should do that, but it shouldn’t let the president use the law as a smokescreen to obscure his own failures.
You can see the illegitimacy of the president’s policies — both moral and constitutional — in the outrage you see in communities across the country when the administration is caught out trying to quietly dump some of these unfortunate children at local facilities. It’s clear to me that the word has gone out inside the administration to get these people situated near where their families are, to have them in place for when the next amnesty is declared.
So don’t look for any so-called lull to last very long. Until this president is out of office, the message he has been sending to our neighbors south of the border won’t change: “Get here anyway you can, as quickly as you can.” It’s a limited-time offer — Mr. Obama has just two years left in his term.
• Tom DeLay, a former congressman from Texas and House majority leader from 2003 to 2005, writes a weekly column for The Washington Times and www.washingtontimes.com.