- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 6, 2014

Republicans said Sunday that President Obama ignored the tide of illegal immigrant children pouring across the border for years and may have even invited it with his policy of deferring deportations, making him responsible for the current crisis of exploitation and violence.

Two months after officials acknowledged a “crisis,” the Obama administration continued to struggle with mixed messages, vowing to be tough on future border crossers while tacitly acknowledging that many of those will probably never be deported.

“We have to do right by the children,” Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson told NBC’s “Meet the Press,” though he still vowed to “stem the tide” of future waves.

Republicans said it will be impossible to stem that tide — and indeed the surge will only increase — unless Mr. Obama and Mr. Johnson do an about-face and step up enforcement of immigration laws.

“The thing this administration needs to do is immediately deport these families, these children,” Republican Rep. Raul R. Labrador of Idaho said, replying to Mr. Johnson on NBC. “I know it sounds harsh. I know it sounds difficult. But they’re creating a crisis at this time that is actually going to harm these children.”

Mr. Obama is also under increasing pressure to visit the border and get a firsthand look at the situation but so far has rejected those suggestions — though he will be in Texas raising money for political campaigns this week.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who has been among the leaders calling for Mr. Obama to visit, said he warned the White House years ago about the rising number of young illegal immigrants sneaking into the country.

Mr. Perry said he asked for the National Guard to be deployed in 2010 and fired off a letter in 2012 begging for additional resources to deal with the influx of children, only to be rebuffed and left with a crisis.

“Messages have been sent now for multiple years,” he told ABC’s “This Week” program.

The crisis has resulted in a scramble to bus, lodge and process the unaccompanied children as protesters, fed up with the situation, turn away busloads of illegal immigrants from centers in their towns.

“People were concerned about the people, the immigrants coming here — would they have proper facilities, who’s going to take care of them, how long is this going to be for — and those were questions that we just didn’t get any answers to,” Murrieta Mayor Alan Long told CNN’s “State of the Union” after his town became the latest flashpoint for standoffs over the transport of illegal immigrants.

“I can’t speak for the rest of the world that showed up at our doorsteps,” he added. “This is a huge national problem and drew a lot of emotions on both sides of the protest line.”

More than 10,000 illegal immigrant children traveling without parents are expected to be caught at the border this month, and nearly as many members of families traveling together — usually young mothers with their children — will also be caught.

It marks a major turnaround from just a few years ago, when apprehensions of illegal immigrants were falling and the border seemed more secure.

But the children have been so overwhelming, and their cases require so much extra processing and care, that Border Patrol agents have been pulled from other patrol duties. The agents say that means more drugs are getting through and other illegal activities are likely increasing elsewhere on the border.

A Catholic bishop from Texas, however, said the debate has gotten bogged down in questions of legality rather than concern for the children.

“We just take it up at the point when they arrive at the border, and what we need to begin to understand better is why would they leave [their home countries],” Bishop Mark Seitz of the Diocese of El Paso told ABC.

Even if the children were sent back to their home countries, he said, “they would not stay; they would make another attempt because they felt that to remain would mean their deaths.”

“We just need to find a way, first of all, to receive them according to existing laws that say we must receive people who are seeking asylum,” he said. “In fact, they are not illegal if they are coming under those circumstances.”

For his part, Mr. Johnson said many of the children are coming thanks to a misunderstanding of Mr. Obama’s policies.

One of those is the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which grants tentative legal status to young adult illegal immigrants who came as children but have been in the country for years.

Mr. Johnson said smuggling cartels are acting like “used car salesmen” by making Central Americans believe they can get legal status by getting into the U.S. quickly. But Mr. Johnson said the deferred-action policy isn’t open to newcomers.

He struck an optimistic tone about the crisis, saying the border “is not open to illegal migration, and we will stem the tide.” But he was less clear about what officials plan to do with the children who’ve arrived.

“There is a deportation proceeding that is commenced against illegal migrants, including children,” Mr. Johnson said. “We are looking at ways to create additional options for dealing with the children in particular [that is] consistent with our laws and our values.”

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