It’s said a picture is worth a thousand words. Yet by all the blustering by Republicans, and some Democrats, about the ignominy of President Barack Obama, during his recent visit to Texas, not showing up on the border to view firsthand the current refugee crisis — some calling it his Hurricane Katrina moment — no one seems to get it. Just what we need right now: Pictures floating around Central America and the Internet of the U.S. president surrounded by refugee kids. It wouldn’t matter that the headlines read “U.S. Seeks to Stem Flow of Refugees.” What the people would see is the president of the United States welcoming their sons and daughters. Yeah. Border visit. Great idea. Of course, if Obama had gone to the border those same Republicans would be blasting him for making the crisis a photo-op just as they are suing him for “breaking” laws while simultaneously criticizing him for enforcing the 2008 law that is encouraging the refugee flow. That bipartisan law, passed overwhelmingly by Congress and signed by President George W. Bush, gives special status to minors from Central America who are facing violence, rape, child trafficking and gang conflict. What Congress viewed as compassion, human smugglers known as “coyotes” viewed as a business opportunity. Since October, they’ve herded more than 50,000 children, at around $4,000 a head, mostly from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras and many unaccompanied by adults, across the southern border. That’s 10 times the number taken into custody from the year after the law was passed.
As opposed to children in similar circumstances from Mexico and Canada who are returned to their respective borders immediately, these children must be granted a court hearing before they are deported or allowed to stay. Given the huge backlog of cases, the process may take up to three years, and more than likely the kids, many of whom are settled with illegal alien relatives, won’t show up to court anyway. Naturally, it’s all Obama’s fault, according to Republicans and their pet media spokespersons — or does the leash run the other way? — completely ignoring the 2008 law and the fact they’ve blocked any comprehensive immigration reform that would have included enhanced border security. Obama has asked Congress to amend that law to make it easier and quicker to repatriate these kids and asked Congress for $3.7 billion for additional Border Patrol manpower, judges and detention facilities. Instead, what Congress should pass and Obama should sign is a bill repealing the law completely, resource buses and personnel to humanely and safely transport the kids home and provide grants to help their home governments build their own detention facilities. This crisis cannot become one of heart over mind. Millions of children around the world face similar circumstances. We cannot save every child in distress, and nations must have secure borders. The only difference between deporting kids back to Honduras instead of back to Mexico are the logistics and the political guts to do it. Marty Moore is a freelance writer living in Port Richey.