DHS on Border Crisis: We Will 'Act in Best Interest of the Child'

Thousands of minors who entered the country illegally are flooding the U.S.-Mexico border and overwhelming federal resources. During a press conference on Thursday, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson implied that many of the foreign children will remain in the U.S. The secretary said that President Obama's Health and Human Services (HHS) will first and foremost use resources to act in the best interest of each child. 

Johnson said that 24,000 unaccompanied children crossed the border last year--by May, 2014, that number had already doubled to 47,000. 

"The law requires that we act in the best interest in the child," Johnson said. "When we turn over a child to HHS, HHS acts in the best interest of the child which very often means reuniting that child with the parent in the United States. That's what the law requires. "

In the face of such a statement, it is unclear how immigration laws will be enforced moving forward. 

The Obama Administration is providing the influx of illegal immigrants with shelter, transportation, meals, education, and even legal counsel. Many are concerned that providing such resources will encourage more foreign nationals to enter the U.S. illegally. 

Still, Johnson insisted that he is not "encouraging illegal immigration in any way, shape, or form." He believes that the dangerous nature of the trek north from Central America will deter more illegal immigrants from entering the U.S.

"It is hazardous to send a child...to a processing center," he said. "Processing centers are not places for children. To put a child in the hands of a criminal organization is no place for a child either. So yes, we provide a number of things for children when we find them...but it is not a desirable situation and I would encourage no parent to send their child through this process."

Johnson said that the federal government has launched a "public affairs campaign on radio, print, and television to talk about dangers of going across the border."

It is unclear, at this time, whether such a campaign will be effective. 

Breitbart Texas contributing editor and border security expert Sylvia Longmire said, "DHS Secretary Johnson clearly understands that the illegal immigration surge is at crisis proportions, and cited how the number of apprehended unaccompanied alien children (UACs) has been doubling every year since 2011. However, he still maintains that DHS simply underestimated the pending surge and doesn't believe that DHS is creating an incentive for Central Americans to send their children to the United States."

She continued, "The phrase repeated most frequently during the Q&A portion of the briefing was 'the best interest of the child,' and based on the questions from seemingly frustrated reporters, there was considerable ambiguity demonstrated by U.S. officials with regards to whether that meant keeping the child here in the U.S. with relatives, or deporting them back to their likely poor and dangerous home countries...Johnson did hint at the fact that the DHS plan for dealing with this surge is still tenuous at best, saying, 'If there are options, we want to hear about them.' But the responses to pointed questions about reuniting UACs with family members in the US and how that would impact deportations were met with vague and unsatisfying answers."

Follow Kristin Tate on Twitter @KristinBTate



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