HOUSTON, Texas–On Thursday lawmakers gathered near the Texas-Mexico border to discuss the illegal immigration crisis at a House Homeland Security Committee field hearing. U.S. House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) wasted no time tip-toeing around what he believes to be the root cause of the border crisis: the Obama Administration and its immigration rhetoric and policies.
McCaul first pointed out that since October more than 50,000 unaccompanied minors have entered the U.S. illegally from Central America. Next year, 150,000 more unaccompanied minors are expected to do the same.
The border crisis shows no signs of getting better, and in McCaul’s view the Obama Administration is responsible.
“The Administration must first recognize its failed immigration and border policies are the source of the problem,” McCaul said. “At the hearing I held in Washington last week, the Committee heard repeatedly that the horrible economic conditions and violence in Central America were the only reason these kids are coming. No one questions the fact that the circumstances in these countries are terrible, but these conditions are not new, and they have not suddenly gotten worse.”
Indeed, those on the left continue to deny that the Obama Administration is encouraging the flow of migrants–they claim that the spike in illegal immigration is only a result of increasing violence in Central American countries.
At the hearing, Texas Democratic Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee said, “We need to continue to use the word ‘humanitarian.’ These children have been forcibly misplaced.”
The Obama Administration echoes Jackson Lee’s sentiment. Early in June Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said the federal government is not “encouraging illegal
But many on the right, including McCaul, do not see it that way.
McCaul said that “a relaxed enforcement posture – along with talk of comprehensive immigration reform” will lead to more illegal immigrants crossing the border. He continued, “The message these policies are sending is ‘if you come, you can stay.’ This makes its way back to Central America, and more children are put in the arms of the cartels. In fact, newspapers there seem to be encouraging illegal immigration based on these policies. And recent internal DHS surveys of these children reveal that more than 70% believe they are going to remain here.”
Texas Governor Rick Perry also spoke at Thursday’s hearing. He largely agreed with McCaul, and added that if serious action is not taken soon “the flow [of illegal immigrants] is not going to stop.”
Although the Obama Administration has launched a Spanish-language campaign to deter more prospective immigrants, it is unclear if such efforts will be effective. As it currently stands, the Administration’s rhetoric often juxtaposes what is actually happening.
The federal government is making an effort to tell Central Americans that they will not be given “permisos” if they enter the U.S. illegally–however, many of the migrants who are here will likely get to stay in the country.
McCaul said, “While these kids and families are given ‘notices to appear,’ the reality is that it will take years to work through the immigration system. To break this cycle we need to add in some real deterrence – first, mandatory detention and then we should explore ways to promptly return those who come here illegally.”
At this point, it is unclear how U.S. officials and facilities will keep up with the increasing number of immigrants crossing the border illegally. Unless significant policy changes are made, the number of foreign nationals crossing the U.S. border illegally will likely continue to climb.
Follow Kristin Tate @KristinBTate.