Contrary to denials by many in the media, the Obama administration had repeatedly connected the current crisis of unaccompanied children on the border to the President’s executive actions on immigration, in particular Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
Two weeks ago, I noted that Vice President Joe Biden, Director for Western Hemisphere Affairs in the National Security Council Ricardo Zuñiga, and U.S. Customs and Border Protections Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske had all stated that the government’s response to the crisis would be focused on convincing people in Central America that DACA would not grant them amnesty.
But it turns out I may have understated the connection. That’s because I overlooked an op-ed written in late June by DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson. The op-ed was published in Spanish in Central American media. An English translation of the op-ed is available on the DHS website. It reads in part:
The long journey is not only dangerous; there are no “permisos,” “permits,” or free passes at the end.
The U.S. Government’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program,
also called “DACA,” does not apply to a child who crosses the U.S.
border illegally today, tomorrow or yesterday. To be eligible for DACA,
a child must have been in the United States prior to June 15, 2007 –
seven years ago.
Also, the immigration reform legislation now before Congress provides
for an earned path to citizenship, but only for certain people who came
into this country on or before December 31, 2011 – two and one half
years ago. 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.
So that’s four top U.S. officials who have directly connected the border crisis to confusion about U.S. immigration policy, specifically DACA (not to mention a White House Fact Sheet which says the same). The entire executive branch of the U.S. government is making this connection directly to the people of Central America. So it strains credulity to suggest no connection to the President’s policies exists.
In fact, we’re now beginning to see these same individuals claim that the messaging seems to be working. Yesterday Secretary Johnson released data showing the number of children at the border was down sharply in July, the first time that has happened this year. Speaking of the decline, Politico reports:
Several factors could be behind the drop in the number of children.
For instance, experts have said the hot July weather, particularly down
south, could deter immigrants from making the journey.
But in June, Obama administration officials began making aggressive
warnings to children and parents in Central America, urging the children
not to come to the United States.
Those are the two most likely explanations for the decline, i.e. hot weather or the “aggressive” message campaign. It’s too soon to say which is having a bigger impact. But if any part of the July decline can be attributed to the effort of the Obama administration, then it can only be to the message about DACA and U.S. immigration law. In other words, claiming credit now is just further proof the border crisis and DACA are connected.