Border ‘Crisis’ is about Refugees not Immigration Policy

Myth: The US borders are being flooded with immigrants and our immigration laws are being ignored by Obama and other public officials

Fact: The William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008, signed into law under George W Bush (to address child sex-trafficking), along with several previous Acts, makes it illegal to send away unaccompanied children from non-congruous countries. As these children are from Central American countries (not Mexico as is often assumed), they fall under this provision and can’t simply be turned away. Federal officials are actually trying to change/modify this so they can in fact begin turning such people away. In fact, some have already been sent back.

An influx of children from Central America has made headlines and created much controversy. As such, political opportunists have created a false “immigration” narrative, and from there have laid claims that US immigration laws aren’t being enforced. Cooler (and unfortunately, quieter) heads have pointed out that this is not about immigration, it’s about the treatment of refugees. A 2008 law (passed under a Democratically controlled Congress, then signed into law under George W Bush) essentially makes it illegal to turn away unaccompanied children from non-continuous countries away, and guarantees a certain level of treatment for these children (hence, why these children aren’t being turned away, while a bus full of children from Mexico was). As a result, politicians from both major parties are attempting to change these laws to make a quick deportation of these unaccompanied children legal.

Why the influx of children?

These children are fleeing from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, who have the 1st, 4th and 5th highest murder rates in the world respectively.

The influx is not only happening in the US. Refugee children are also flocking to other parts of Latin America. immigration-refugee-border
Who’s to “blame” for this situation?

Republicans have blamed President Barack Obama, claiming he is neglecting for enforce the law.  But this accusation ignores the fact that the law is in fact the reason why these children can’t simply be deported.  Others have blamed the Dream Act and other Obama immigration initiatives.  Democrats have countered by noting that it was George W Bush who signed into a law the prohibition of turning unaccompanied children away. Regardless of which party Americans try and scapegoat, the reality is that Central America is in the middle of a humanitarian crisis,that is driving this exodus.  Hard as it may be to imagine, this is not something American politicians “caused” (though arguments have been put forward regarding past US funding of the very syndicates wreaking havoc on Latin America today).

President Obama’s seeking of $3.7 Billion to address the situation has been met with much skepticism to say the least.  Whether that amount  is (in)sufficient, or disproportionate, there are costs associated with the treatment of unaccompanied children (UAC).

According to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, ORR Responsibilities include:

  • Making and implementing placement decisions for the UAC
  • Ensuring that the interests of the child are considered in decisions related to the care and custody of UAC
  • Providing home assessments for certain categories of UAC at risk
  • Conducting follow-up services for certain categories of children
  • Overseeing the infrastructure and personnel of ORR-funded UAC care provider facilities
  • Conducting on-site monitoring visits of ORR-funded care provider facilities and ensuring compliance with ORR national care standards
  • Collecting, analyzing, and reporting statistical information on UAC
  • Providing training to federal, state, and local officials who have substantive contact with UACs
  • Developing procedures for age determinations and conducting these determinations along with DHS
  • Granting specific consent for state court jurisdiction over children
  • Cooperating with the Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review to ensure that sponsors of UACs receive legal orientation presentations
  • Ensuring, to the greatest extent practicable, that all UAC in custody have access to legal representation or counsel
  • Reunifying UAC with qualified sponsors and family members who are determined to be capable of providing for the child’s physical and mental well-being

Refugee/Immigration Conflation

A video of a stand-off between Mexican citizens and border patrol agents has recently resurfaced, and has been conflated with the influx of children from Central America (the implied assumption being that this shows that it’s not just children being allowed in the US). The problem with this is that these Mexican citizens are actually turned away, not allowed to enter the US. If anything, this bolsters the claim that the Border Patrol is doing its job in determining who is covered under the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008.

Further Reading

Border 'Crisis' is about Refugees not Immigration Policy by

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