The subject matter of this blog should carry a “warning label.” It should shock and, perhaps, anger you. I know those were my reactions when I first learned of the story. You will not believe that this is occurring in the US, and to make matters worse, the story is being severely underreported. The only place I have seen it is on Fox News. I will try to report it in a non-partisan manner and let the facts speak for themselves.
As many of us know, the US government has been attempting to formulate a coherent, comprehensive immigration policy. It is a complicated, emotional issue with many aspects, including, among others, how to secure our borders and resolve the matter of millions of illegal immigrants that are already living in the US. Republican, Democratic, liberal and conservative politicians have not been able to agree on a bill, although most everyone concedes that we need one. However, the purpose of this blog is not to debate the pros and cons of immigration, in general. As I stated, that is too complicated and emotional an issue with too many disparate points of view.
The subject of this blog is the tidal wave of immigrant children from Mexico and Central America that has been entering the US in recent months. The number has been estimated at 6,500 per month, and it has been accelerating. At the current pace, as many as 150,000 such children will be entering the US this year. The southern border has become a sieve. The Border Patrol has been overwhelmed and has been powerless to stop the influx. The following has been reported by Fox and is supported by interviews with current and former border patrol agents, Shawn Moran, vice president and spokesman for the National Border Patrol Council, persons from humane organizations who have gained access to the detention centers in question, and photographic evidence provided by Border Patrol personnel who have been working in those centers.
1. Many, if not most of these children have been smuggled in by organized rings called “coyotes.” These smugglers simply deposit them at various locations, such as bus stops, or even the side of a road. The lucky ones are met by “relatives.” It has been reported that sometimes these relatives are legitimate, but all too often they are not. Who’s to know? Some children even seek out Border Patrol agents and “surrender” to them. Evasion has morphed into seek out and surrender. They know that once they’re physically in the US they cannot or will not be deported.
2. To be sure, these children are chasing the “American Dream.” In most cases, their parents have entrusted them to these smuggling rings willingly and paid handsomely for the privilege. Like any parent, they desperately want a better life for their children. I cannot fault them for that.
3. Because of their sheer numbers they cannot be processed efficiently. Therefore, they are being held in what amounts to makeshift detention centers, really pens, which lack adequate food, beds, toilet facilities, medical care, etc. Disease is a real threat. Many of the children have lice, chicken pox, MRSA and other infectious diseases. In the photos one can see many of the guards wearing masks. It looks like a refugee camp in a war zone in a third-world country. I ask again: is this really America?
4. Facilities in Texas are so overwhelmed that government officials have been transporting some of the immigrants to other locales, such as Phoenix, by charter airplanes and buses. It is not clear what happens once they arrive there. Are they then transported to another detention center or just left to “hang out” at the bus stop?
5. Approximately, 40% of the Border Patrol agents have been diverted from their normal duties of patrolling the border to administer to these children. This has reduced border security even more.
6. I have seen pictures of these facilities. They are a heart-wrenching horror. They conjure up memories of the Superdome, post Katrina. The difference, of course, that Katrina was the result of a natural disaster; this is essentially a man-made crisis.
7. The vetting process is haphazard, at best. In addition to the health issue, identification and record keeping is often inadequate. How do we verify a person’s identity or ascertain if, for example, they are a criminal or a terrorist? According to the law anyone under 18 is considered a “child,” and, in any event, how could we even verify that someone who claims to be, say, 16 is not, in fact, over 18?
8. Most upsetting of all is that the media has been denied access. This is unprecedented to my knowledge, except in matters of national security. As I said, the only photographic evidence I have seen is from cell phone cameras of border patrol agents on location. Reportedly, these agents have been forbidden to bring cell phones into the detention centers. Reportedly, they have been warned that if they are caught taking pictures they will be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including to termination.
CONCLUSION AND PREDICTION
Why is this happening now? How come these people in Central America are aware of the US’s immigration policy and its current non-enforcement stance and know how to “work” the system? It has been reported that the media in Central America has been advertising. Basically, the message is that this is a golden opportunity to emigrate. The US is not policing its border adequately. It is not enforcing its own immigration policies and procedures. If you can make it here you will be able to stay. This is a powerful and irresistible message.
This situation is a crisis of the highest order. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the sheer number of these immigrants will overwhelm our social, medical and educational services. This is already happening in border states such as Texas, Arizona and California. Guess who will be paying for this?
They will flood the job market, competing with American citizens, many of whom are unemployed as it is. Yes, we feel sorry for them. But, how about our own citizens? It demands the immediate attention of the Administration and the Congress. State officials, such as Jan Brewer, Governor of Arizona, have been practically begging the Federal government to act. Once again, I ask the same question I have asked many, many times before. Where is our elected leadership? What are they doing to resolve this? Why do they continue to play politics, each side blaming the other, instead of working in concert to resolve the situation?
The Administration and other government officials have told us emphatically that the border is secure. Obviously, that is not the case. Federal money will be needed to pay for the care of these people. But, more money is not the ultimate answer. Rather, we have to figure out how to secure the border. Most people appear to be in favor of some type of immigration bill, but many, including me, have argued that in order to achieve a lasting solution we must secure the border before passing any comprehensive bill. Not afterwards, not concurrently, BEFORE.
My prediction is that a comprehensive immigration bill will not be passed this year. If we’re lucky, the Federal government will act to alleviate the current crisis by tightening its procedures and enforcing existing immigration laws, policies and procedures.