WASHINGTON, D.C. — House Homeland Security Committee Republicans spent Tuesday morning calling out the Obama administration for causing and failing to cope effectively with the ongoing crisis of unaccompanied minors flooding the border.
“This is a crisis that has been in the making for years — one that we should have seen coming — but few concrete actions have been taken. The Department of Homeland Security, and the U.S. government as a whole, has been slow to act, turning a blind eye to the warning signs,” Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX) said at a hearing about the flood of unaccompanied illegal immigrant minors crossing the southwest border.
“The tragic fact is these children are making a dangerous journey based on misinformation and the false promise of amnesty,” he added — noting that the economic and violence in the countries the problem Democrats and that administration have pointed to most frequently are not new. The new factor, he said is the “series of Executive Actions by the Administration to grant immigration benefits to children outside the purview of the law.”
Since October more than 52,000 unaccompanied minors — the vast majority of who are from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador — have been detained crossing the southwest border into the United Sates, a 99 percent increase over last year. House Speaker John Boehner last week called on President Obama to deploy the National Guard to deal with the overwhelming influx, a call echoed by McCaul and other Republicans on the committee.
While Republicans hammered the administration’s policies — which they argued have created the perception that these children can stay — and failure to foresee the crisis, committee Democrats defended the administration’s policies and pressed the officials on the humanitarian aspects of the crisis.
“For those out there that are looking to simple answers and to lay blame on President Obama’s policy on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or even the Senate-passed comprehensive immigration reform legislation, I would note that neither would apply to these kids,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson (R-MS).
“Hence, the assertion that the recent surge in unaccompanied minors is due to lax enforcement is due to lax immigration enforcement does not pass the smell test,” he added.
DHS Sec. Johnson laid out the 14 steps he said that administration has taken to deal with the crisis and stem the tide “in matter consistent with our laws and values.”
Republicans however expressed frustration over all at the inability of the administration to get a hold on the situation, with a couple showing visible anger.
“Regardless of how we feel about immigration reform in this country, how can we sit by and watch our country’s national sovereignty, my country’s national sovereignty violated over and over and over on our southern border. Not just this situation with children but for a long time we’ve seen an increase in illegal immigrants coming into this country,” South Carolina Rep. Jeff Duncan said going on to voice concern about the other possible threats to national security crossing the border.
As Republicans grew agitated Johnson would calmly reiterate his goals of enforcement in line with the administration’s priorities.
Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Patrick Meehan for example stressed that the illegal unaccompanied children who are coming will never leave, to which Johnson argued that the crisis is humanitarian.
“We’re talking about children as young as 5 and 7 years old, this is a humanitarian issue and so when you’re talking about somebody who is desperate to be reunited with her mother or her father we need to be careful about how we treat these kids,” Johnson said.
“We all get it,” Meehan responded, “This is what’s so difficult about this. We’re dealing with children and we get it. But we ought not be leaving the American people with the false impression that some how the system is going to work and is actually going to lead to removals. Once those children are here they’re staying here.”
Johnson did concede that some of the unaccompanied minors are reunited with illegal immigrant families in the United States, but was was unable to say how many unaccompanied minors show up for their removal proceedings
Michigan Republican Rep. Candice Miller called for an end to aid for Central America and Mexico unit they stop their citizens from migrating illegally to the United States.
“Instead of increasing funding hundreds of millions of dollars this president has called for, i think we need to stop foreign aid to these countries immediately,” she said, further advocating the United States reconsider certain trade agreements with these countries.
Meanwhile, Tuesday the House Appropriations Committee voted to set aside some $120 million in its foreign aid budget to help Mexico stop the tide of illegal immigrants and help Central America repatriate their countrymen, according to Politico.
California Democratic Rep. Loretta Sanchez pushed back against Miller’s arguments against aid and further argued that America’s demand for drugs added to the problems at the border.