Texas Gov. Rick Perry has a response to the crisis of unaccompanied children crossing our southern border. He’s calling up the National Guard. To do what? Provide daycare?
After all, this latest wave of undocumented immigrants is making headlines because they are under 18, seeking asylum from violence-ravaged Central America and running toward border guards, not away from them.
The border has been overwhelmed in recent months with the influx of 57,000 unaccompanied children, mostly from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. Many have been fleeing gang violence and following the rumors spread by human traffickers along the drug routes.
Border agents turn potential asylum seekers over to the Department of Health and Human Services while their legal status is being determined. In the meantime, border agents trying to handle the inflow find themselves handling such unexpected duties as changing baby diapers.
In a news conference Perry insisted that his assignment of 1,000 troops to the border will be “force multiplier” to assist state troopers, the Border Patrol and other police who, unlike the National Guard, are allowed to make actual arrests and detentions.
But sheriffs along the border sound unimpressed. Some told reporters that they have not been consulted about the wisdom of sending military personnel who are not authorized to stop, question or arrest anyone.
“At this time, a lot of people do things for political reasons. I don’t know that it helps,” said one, according to Christy Hoppe of the Dallas Morning News.
Besides, the number of children caught at the border has actually declined, border officials say, from a high of 355 per day last month to about 150 per day now. That may be a temporary dip or maybe word is getting around that the administration expects most of asylum seekers to be returned, a process that already has begun.
But, either way, you can tell that Perry is gearing up for another possible presidential run. He paid a visit to Iowa Republicans last weekend. He’s (Gasp!) stopped wearing Western boots, citing back problems, according to The New York Times. He’s even joined the ranks of those of us who think wearing eyeglasses makes you look more intelligent. Welcome, governor.
And he’s implementing his own border policy. “The price of inaction is too high for Texans to pay,” Perry said.
So, it appears, is the price of action. Perry gave no indication in his news conference of where the $12 million per month for calling up the Guard would come from. He said only that he hoped the federal government would eventually reimburse the state.
Two Texas lawmakers, Republican Sen. John Cornyn and Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar are sponsoring bills to reimburse the state. In the meantime, Perry is pursuing his drastic action without knowing who will pay for it. He sounds like a Washingtonian already.
By contrast, President George W. Bush also sent 6,000 National Guardsmen to the border in 2006 for Operation Jump Start, which also built new security fences and surveillance equipment. But at least Bush’s plan included funding.
President Barack Obama also wants to provide more border security. He supports the comprehensive immigration reform bill that passed the Senate with bipartisan support. It would send an additional 20,000 Border Patrol agents to the border, among other security improvements. It would also provide various pathways to legal status for the nation’s estimated 11 million undocumented residents.
But House Republicans have stalled the Senate measure amid election-year pressures from their conservative base, leaving the bill’s future uncertain.
Since the latest refugee crisis erupted, Obama also has asked Congress for $3.7 billion to pay for more border security, temporary detention centers and additional immigration court judges to process asylum cases and speed up deportations.
But congressional Republicans have balked again, calling the package too costly and too light on measures to speed up the return of undocumented asylum seekers, young and old.
For now, Obama is scheduled to meet with the presidents of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to discuss new partnerships to stem the refugee tide and its root causes, particularly violent drug gangs. Many of the drug gangsters received their street schooling in the United States before they were deported back home. The refugee tide is, in many ways, our own failed drug policies coming home to roost.
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