An opinion article that appeared in Penn Live on July 19 debates whether or not the government should continue to allow unaccompanied children entering the country illegally to stay in the United States. Even though many of these 57,000 plus children entered the U.S. from Central American countries to escape gang violence, they are in the country illegally and the reality of the situation is that someone must take responsibility for providing for their care. It would be hard to say that providing asylum to these children is a not a humanitarian issue. According to NPR, who spoke to a border control agent, the average age of these unaccompanied minor children is 12-14 years old. Only a person with a cold-heart would be unable to feel sympathy for the dirty six-year-old girl carrying her fever-stricken four-year-old brother across the border into Southern Texas holding onto the hope for a better life.
A majority of the children are leaving their homes in Guatemala, El Salvador, and the Honduras being transported by smugglers in boxes and across the Rio Grande to the states some to be reunited with family members who are already living in the United States. One might think that being discovered by border patrol agents means the children will be automatically sent back to their native countries, but that is not the case which makes the situation complicated because of the use of discretion in immigration policies. Laws that were created to prevent the human trafficking of children are complicated by the selective enforcement of existing laws. The Heritage Foundation suggests that the solution to combating the policy problem is for Congress to reform existing laws and modify actions that led to the increase of unaccompanied alien children.
Anything that involves changes in policy takes time which is one thing running short. As it was reported in MSN News, the feds estimate that it costs anywhere from $250-$1000/day per child for their housing, medical care, legal bills, and other needs. President Obama asking Congress for emergency funding in the amount of $3.7 billion to be used to cover the cost of the unaccompanied alien children's needs is like placing a band-aid over top a bleeding wound. Although it was noted on July 17 by the Associated Press in MSN News by the U.S. Border Patrol that the number of children entering the country illegally is dropping, that does not fix the problem with the children who are already here in the states. The position espoused by the Libertarian Party is to allow the unaccompanied alien children to remain in the United States as it would be inhumane to send them back to the very same countries they fled to escape the violence. When it comes to the U.S. government paying for the children's care, the position shifts to reflect that of many Americans who do not oppose asylum but do not want to foot the bill.
Resolving the situation is not one that is unique to the border states or even for the federal government in Washington, D.C. According to a 2008 report by the Federation for American Immigration Reform, there were about 140,000 illegal immigrants in Pennsylvania with $728 million in costs to the taxpayers for their education, health care, and incarceration. With this influx of unaccompanied alien children being relocated to family members across the nation there is a good chance that a number of them will end up living in Pennsylvania. It was estimated in the 2008 report that it cost $660 million annually for the public school education of the estimated 48,500 children living illegally in the state. When there are families who can barely afford to pay for their own housing, food, and medical costs, it is a burden to assume that as taxpayers that they should also be expected to pay up to $1000/day for children who are not their own. Some policymakers and special interest groups may try to cloud the issue by alleging that American citizens are not welcoming the immigrant children because they are here illegally. The truth for most people who are in opposition is that they just do not want to get stuck paying the bill for a country that is already is enough debt.