Department of Homeland Security Sec. Jeh Johnson went on an op-ed offensive over the weekend, running an open letter to the parents of children illegally crossing America’s southwest border in Spanish-language news outlets.
Tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors, largely from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, have been apprehended illegally entering the United States this year. Officials have pointed to violence and poverty, and they have recently conceded that rumors of a free pass into the United States have fueled the record level of illegal immigration by children.
“To the parents of these children I have one simple message: Sending your child to travel illegally into the United States is not the solution,” Johnson wrote in the Spanish-language op-ed over the weekend.
DHS released the English translation Monday.
Johnson argued that the trip is too dangerous for the young children – many of whom he said will be victimized by the human smugglers parents pay to get them to the United States – and that there is no free ticket into the United States.
“The long journey is not only dangerous; there are no ‘permisos,’ ‘permits,’ or free passes at the end,” he wrote.
The DHS secretary went on to stress that neither the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program nor the Senate immigration bill would shield the new arrivals from deportation.
“So, let me be clear: There is no path to deferred action or citizenship, or one being contemplated by Congress, for a child who crosses our border illegally today,” he wrote.
Instead, he said the new border crossers are a priority for deportation – despite the fact that the Associated Press has reported it will take years for many of these immigration cases to work their way through the system.
“Rather, under current U.S. laws and policies, anyone who is apprehended crossing our border illegally is a priority for deportation, regardless of age. That means that if your child is caught crossing the border illegally, he or she will be charged with violating United States immigration laws, and placed in deportation proceedings – a situation no one wants,” he wrote. “The document issued to your child is not a ‘permiso,’ but a Notice To Appear in a deportation proceeding before an immigration judge.”
Johnson concluded by stressing parents should not send their children alone to illegally enter the United States.
“The desire to see a child have a better life in the United States is understandable. But, the risks of illegal migration by an unaccompanied child to achieve that dream are far too great, and the ‘permisos’ do not exist.”