The border crisis: Not just Congress' problem, sir


The U.S. Border Patrol estimates that this year, they will catch roughly 90,000 unaccompanied minors entering our country illegally.

They expect that number to rise next year. And while this issue has existed for years, we’ve seen a massive spike over the last year – and that trend is expected to continue.

The President has been pretty quiet on the question of what caused the spike. Many people, including me, attribute it pretty closely to rumors spreading around Central America following the President’s executive order regarding amnesty for children of illegal immigrants.

Definition of 'asylum'

In the past, an individual or family seeking asylum in the United States would visit a U.S. consulate in their home country and apply – just like any other family fearing for their lives would in countries all over the world. They wouldn’t expect to show up and be granted an automatic waiver.

But the rumors, which frankly the President is doing to more confirm than dispel, are that if you make it to America now, you can stay. No problem. So is it any real surprise then that we have tens of thousands of unaccompanied children coming across? Not particularly.

Children and the border crossings

Initially, in an attempt to respond to the crisis, the President requested that we revisit a 2008 law designed to combat human trafficking. Due to an unintended technicality, the law was making it legally difficult for U.S. officials to turn minors around and send them back home.

Legally, under the 2008 law, if you were from a country in Central America (instead of from Mexico), you were to be automatically transferred from Border Control to the custody of U.S. Health and Human Services where you would await a hearing designed to find out if you were a trafficking victim.

It made perfect sense that in order to act quickly, the Obama administration needed us to modify that 2008 law. But in a matter of days, before Congress had a chance to do the due diligence on the new language, the President changed his mind and said he was now opposed to changing the 2008 law.

A couple of protests and poll results was all it took. The President determined that, in fact, he actually did want his hands tied. As a backup plan for addressing the border crisis, he decided he would blame Congress for causing the crisis – and for failing to fix it.

White House talking points don't solve issue

If you follow the White House’s revised talking points, it is apparently Congress’ unwillingness to pass the Senate amnesty bill that has caused the crisis along the border. As the argument goes, the Senate bill included large sums of money for increased enforcement along the border. If the President had had those billions of extra dollars in enforcement money, he’d have set up a sufficient deterrent along the southern border.

That’s absurd on so many different levels, it's hard to know where to start.

First, the President hasn’t been turned down for any increased enforcement budget requests along the border. He just chooses not to request that money unless we agree to amnesty first.

He’s also just finished demonstrating his position on the issue – let the kids stay… all of them… as many as can get here… We have a fairly robust presence along the southern border already. But it’s not just about being able to catch people entering the country illegally.

Frankly, a lot of the minors and their parents actively seek out border patrol agents as soon as they cross. Because if you let them all stay anyway, then the threat of catching them doesn’t really serve as much of a deterrent.

Finally, as it pertains to passing the Senate immigration bill, it really strains the mind to imagine why amnesty for all would serve as a deterrent for people wanting to come here. Amnesty for kids resulted in a wave of kids. If his goal is politics, that logic makes perfect sense. If his goal is a secure border and a strong deterrent, it makes no sense at all.

But such is the leadership from the White House on this issue. The President has requested millions of dollars from Congress to use in Central America to buy ad space trying to combat rumors of amnesty for minors. I’ll leave it to you all to decide whether those ads will be compelling enough to overcome the calls people are getting from cousins in the U.S. saying they are here to stay.

Legislation passed

Before the House adjourned on Friday, we passed legislation to give the president the tools he needs to address this crisis – if he really wants to. He’s got $650 million to boost our presence along the border. That’s enough to get us to the end of the fiscal year (which is September 30).

Included with the funding are two main provisions – one addresses the problem caused by the 2008 trafficking law. The second provision prevents the administration from issuing any further expansion of his amnesty executive orders.

Not surprisingly, the President threatened to veto the House solution and instead let word leak that he is readying a much broader executive order for amnesty – this time looking at 5 to 6 million illegal immigrants. The Senate, for their part, left town without passing any bill at all.

Obviously, there will be more to discuss in the weeks ahead. You know where I stand.

I believe this:  amnesty orders + open border = disaster. The math on that isn’t complicated. If this current crisis has showed us anything, it’s that in addition to have the policing capability along the border, we also have to demonstrate to the world that entering this country illegally will not be tolerated. Amnesty is the exact opposite of that. It will make the problem worse. It won’t make it go away.

As always, I’m interested to hear your take on this. If you have a minute, drop me a line and let me know what you think.

Rich Nugent (R), Brooksville
Member of Congress,11th Congressional District