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Obama presents reasonable plan to address humanitarian crisis on border

Americans who recognize that the United States is a nation of immigrants have been calling for just immigration reform for years. Here,  the One Nation Rally at Lincoln Memorial, Washington DC, in 2010.
Americans who recognize that the United States is a nation of immigrants have been calling for just immigration reform for years. Here, the One Nation Rally at Lincoln Memorial, Washington DC, in 2010.
© 2014 Karen Rubin/

I got one of those robo calls from Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano, basically cheering the victory of making Bethpage off-limits as a holding area for the unaccompanied migrant children that are fleeing Central America, literally for their lives. There seemed to be a certain gleeful tone to it. Interestingly, he managed to drop the names of Congressman Peter King (no surprise there) and also Congressman Steve Israel, which did surprise me.

I called Congressman Israel's office and asked whether he approved the use of his name, and his position on immigration reform and the $4 billion in emergency funding to address the humanitarian crisis on the border.

A spokesperson for Congressman Israel did not quarrel with Mangano using his name but said she had not heard the tape. Congressman Israel supports the Comprehensive Immigration Reform measure that has passed the Senate (only to languish without debate, let alone a vote in the House, which means that after this term, the Senate will have to start from scratch, and there is the possibility that Republicans who have so assiduously filibustered every piece of legislation, will not accept comprehensive reform.

As for denying access to Bethpage as a processing facility (who would have thought that Long Island would even be considered a site?) the spokesman said it was because it is a Superfund site and wouldn't be appropriate or safe.

And the Congressman supports President Obama's proposal for funding to address the humanitarian crisis - let's see if Boehner, who basically listed the same measures as the President has proposed - lets it come to a vote.

Because the Republicans are all about playing politics - using this crisis, which basically has come about because of a law passed in 2008 with wide support and signed by George W Bush, which requires that migrants who cross the border, even if illegally, must be interviewed by an immigration judge to determine if they are legitimate refugees seeking asylum.

You remember asylum.

I think about how a boat load of Jews were turned back by the anti-Semites who infused the federal government at the start of World War II, returned to Nazi Germany for extermination. I recall how resentful Americans were of taking in any Jews at all - and wanted to send them back after the war.

To hear Rick Perry speak, you'd think that the whole solution is based on President Obama touring the border himself, rather than sending Homeland Security officials down, and getting even more money and more border patrol agents.

The problem isn't too little enforcement or border protection - these individuals are voluntarily surrendering themselves to border agents. The reason there are upwards of 50,000 is because they have been taken into custody. More is now being spent on border patrol than any other law enforcement category, and funding has doubled under Obama. There has never been so many border patrol agents and so much protection - with aerial patrols, high-tech surveillance - and so many deportations as under the Obama Administration.

But the Republicans are all about patrol. And could care less about the young people fleeing for their lives.

In New York City, the probability of being murdered is 1 in 25,000; in Honduras, the probability of being murdered is 1 in 14.

Republicans are obsessed with sex - how about the sexual exploitation of these young women?

Young men are forced to join gangs or be killed or see a family member or friend murdered "to prove a point."

I'm not getting it. Look around at all the schools and the science fairs. The highest achievers all have names far removed from the Mayflower. It is just a glimmer of the wasted human capital because Republicans refuse to allow a fair and just immigration policy.

Perry and Arizona Governor Jan Brewer are just falling over themselves to prove how intolerant and brutal they can be.

Brewer attempted to deny drivers license to Dreamers who otherwise have been given authorization to stay in the country, have a social security number and working papers. That's just mean - and fortunately a federal judge repelled the move.

Perry wants no part of the federal government - he wants to be able to handle the problem on his own - probably to force back these youngsters at the point of a gun.

The crisis for undocumented immigrants is that the process has been completely stopped - that's why the backlog to handle these 52,000 seeking asylum is 2 years.

That's why Obama wants the funds to hire more immigration judges and the legal apparatus to expedite the process.

Here's what Obama is proposing, according to a fact sheet from the White House:

FACT SHEET: Unaccompanied Children from Central America

The Administration remains greatly concerned by the rise in unaccompanied children from Central America who are crossing into the United States. These children are some of the most vulnerable, and many become victims of violent crime or sexual abuse along the dangerous journey. There has also been a rise in the number of very young children, female children, and adults with their children that are making the journey. The vast majority of these individuals rely on dangerous human smuggling networks to transport them up through Central America and Mexico.

To address the situation, the President directed the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate a government-wide response to this urgent situation.

"Our first priority is to manage the urgent humanitarian situation by making sure these children are housed, fed, and receive any necessary medical treatment. We also are taking steps to improve enforcement and partnering with our Central American counterparts in three key areas: combating gang violence and strengthening citizen security, spurring economic development, and improving capacity to receive and reintegrate returned families and children."

In Guatemala, the Vice President is meeting with regional leaders in Central America to address ways to work together to address the underlying security and economic issues that cause migration.

Partnering with Central America and Mexico

New Programs

 The U.S. Government will be providing $9.6 million in additional support for Central American governments to receive and reintegrate their repatriated citizens. This funding will enable El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to make substantial investments in their existing repatriation centers, provide training to immigration officials on migrant care, and increase the capacity of these governments and non-governmental organizations to provide expanded services to returned migrants.

 In Guatemala, the US is launching a new $40-million U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) program over 5 years to improve citizen security. This program will work in some of the most violent communities to reduce the risk factors for youth involvement in gangs and address factors driving migration to the United States.

 In El Salvador, the US is initiating a new $25-million Crime and Violence Prevention USAID program over 5 years that will establish 77 youth outreach centers in addition to the 30 already in existence. These will continue to offer services to at-risk youth who are susceptible to gang recruitment and potential migration.

 In Honduras, under the Central American Regional Security Initiative (CARSI), we will provide $18.5 million to support community policing and law enforcement efforts to confront gangs and other sources of crime. In addition, USAID will build on an existing initiative to support 40 youth outreach centers by soon announcing a substantial new Crime and Violence Prevention program to further address root causes.

 USAID is calling for proposals to support new public-private partnerships through the Global Development Alliance to increase economic and educational opportunities for at risk youth in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.

 The United States also plans to provide $161.5 million this year for CARSI programs that are critical to enabling Central American countries to respond to the region’s most pressing security and governance challenges. US assistance to help stem migration flows as well as address root cause of the migration will include:

o Approximately $65 million for Rule of Law, Human Rights and Transparency programs, including activities to prevent at-risk youth from joining gangs and encourage their involvement in community crime prevention efforts and programs to expand education and job training.

o Another approximately $96.5 million will go toward peace, security, stabilization, and other related rule of law programs to strengthen immigration, law enforcement, and judicial authorities and promote anti-gang and human rights programs.

Ongoing Programs

 The United States is providing almost $130 million in ongoing bilateral assistance to El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala for a variety of programs related to health, education, climate change, economic growth, military cooperation, and democracy assistance.

 The US is collaborating on public awareness campaigns to help potential migrants understand the significant danger of relying on human smuggling networks and to reinforce that recently arriving children and individuals are not eligible for programs like Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, commonly called DACA, and earned citizenship provisions in comprehensive immigration reform currently under consideration in the Congress.

Increased Enforcement

 The Department of Justice and DHS are taking additional steps to enhance enforcement and removal proceedings."We are surging government enforcement resources to increase our capacity to detain individuals and adults who bring their children with them and to handle immigration court hearings – in cases where hearings are necessary – as quickly and efficiently as possible while also while also protecting those who are seeking asylum. That will allow ICE to return unlawful migrants from Central America to their home countries more quickly."

 These new measures build on a strong existing record of enforcement and removal of Central Americans entering the country unlawfully. In FY 2013, ICE removed 47,769 individuals from Guatemala, 37,049 from Honduras, and 21,602 from El Salvador. This represents approximately 29% of all ICE removals.

 The Vice President will reiterate that unaccompanied children and adults arriving with their children are not eligible to benefit from the passage of immigration reform legislation or from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) process.

Speaking after his meeting with Texas Governor Rick Perry, local officials, and faith leaders in Dallas, on Wednesday, July 9, President Obama said, "It’s important to recognize two things. First, the surge of unaccompanied children, and adults with children, are arriving at one sector of the border, and that's the Rio Grande Valley. Second, the issue is not that people are evading our enforcement officials. The issue is that we’re apprehending them in large numbers. And we’re working to make sure that we have sufficient facilities to detain, house, and process them appropriately, while attending to unaccompanied children with the care and compassion that they deserve while they’re in our custody.

"While we intend to do the right thing by these children, their parents need to know that this is an incredibly dangerous situation and it is unlikely that their children will be able to stay. And I’ve asked parents across Central America not to put their children in harm’s way in this fashion.

"Right now, there are more Border Patrol agents and surveillance resources on the ground than at any time in our history. And we deport almost 400,000 migrants each year. But as soon as it became clear that this year’s migration to the border was different than in past years, I directed FEMA to coordinate our response at the border. Members of my Cabinet and my staff have made multiple trips to facilities there. And we’re also addressing the root of the problem. I sent Vice President Biden and Secretary Kerry and Secretary Johnson to meet with Central American leaders, as well as working with our international partners to go after smugglers who are putting their kids’ lives at risk.

And earlier this week, Mexico announced a series of steps that they’re going to take on their southern border to help stem the tide of these unaccompanied children. "

President Obama - yet again - called on Congress to act, because what he can do with his executive authority is limited.

"Congress has the capacity to work with all parties concerned to directly address the situation. They’ve said they want to see a solution. The supplemental offers them the capacity to vote immediately to get it done."

Perry - whose 2012 presidential bid was torpedoed when he dared to express compassion for Dreamers to have access to higher education - chooses to use the crisis to lay the groundwork for a 2016 bid, and trash talking the President.

If Perry were really presidential, he would be the leader in turning the Texas Congressional contingent to support - that would give the numbers for the president's supplemental o pass the Senate and House.

Obama said, "I indicated to him that if we had more administrative judges, more administrative capacity, we can shrink those wait times. This administrative practice predates my administration and, in fact, has been going on for quite some time, and a lot of it has to do with the fact that there’s not enough capacity, both in terms of detention facilities, but also in terms of judges, attorneys, space in order to process these things more quickly and expeditiously.

"So the bottom line is, actually, that there’s nothing that the Governor indicated he’d like to see that I have a philosophical objection to. I’ve asked Jeh Johnson to contact his head of Health and Human Services when he comes down for the sixth time at the end of this week to coordinate and make sure that some of the suggestions that the Governor has are technically feasible and what kind of resources might be needed. But what I emphasized to the Governor was the problem here is not a major disagreement around the actions that could be helpful in dealing with the problem. The challenge is, is Congress prepared to act to put the resources in place to get this done?

"Another way of putting it -- and I said this directly to the Governor -- is are folks more interested in politics, or are they more interested in solving the problem? If they’re interested in solving the problem, then this can be solved. If the preference is for politics, then it won’t be solved.

"And I urged the Governor to talk to the Texas delegation, which is obviously at the heart of the Republican caucus both in the House and has great influence in the caucus in the Senate. If the Texas delegation is in favor of this supplemental -- which, by the way, does not include some things that I know many of them object to around dealing with undocumented workers who have been in this country for quite some time -- this is just a very narrow issue, this supplemental, in terms of dealing with the particular problem we have right now -- if the Texas delegation is prepared to move, this thing can get done next week. And we can have more Border Patrol agents on the border, as the Governor has requested; we can shorten the timetables for processing these children or adults with children, as the Governor thinks is important; we can make sure that some of the public health issues that were raised in the meeting that I just had are addressed so that we’ve got enough folks vaccinating and checking on the health status of these children to make sure that not only are they safe, but also our communities are safe.

"The things that the Governor thinks are important to do would be a lot easier to do if we had this supplemental. It gives us the resources to do them. And so, the only question at this point is why wouldn’t the Texas delegation or any of the other Republicans who are concerned about this not want to put this on a fast track and get this on my desk so I can sign it and we can start getting to work?

"I suggested to the Governor he has, I suspect, some influence over the Texas delegation, and that might be helpful to call on them to pass this supplemental right away."

The Republicans' "solution" so far has been to repeal the law that requires the migrants from noncontiguous countries to have due-process for their asylum claims. That's the "solution." And oh yes, to chide the president for not doing a photo op at the border.

"This isn’t theater," the President retorted, in the clearest demonstration of the difference between being a politician and actually being President. "This is a problem. I’m not interested in photo ops; I’m interested in solving a problem. And those who say I should visit the border, when you ask them what should we be doing, they're giving us suggestions that are embodied in legislation that I’ve already sent to Congress. So it’s not as if they're making suggestions that we’re not listening to. In fact, the suggestions of those who work at the border, who visited the border, are incorporated in legislation that we’re already prepared to sign the minute it hits my desk.

"There’s a very simple question here, and that is Congress just needs to pass the supplemental. There is a larger issue that I recognize involves a lot of politics, which is why aren’t we passing comprehensive immigration reform, which would put an additional 20,000 Border Patrol agents and give us a lot of additional authorities to deal with some of these problems. That should have been done a year ago; should have been done two years ago. It’s gotten caught up in politics. And I understand that.

"One of the suggestions I had for Governor Perry was that it would be useful for my Republican friends to rediscover the concept of negotiation and compromise. The Governor’s one concern that he mentioned to me was, is that setting aside the supplemental, I should go ahead and authorize having National Guard troops surge at the border right away. And what I told him is we’re happy to consider how we could deploy National Guard down there, but that's a temporary solution, that's not a permanent solution. And so why wouldn’t we go ahead and pass the permanent solution, or at least a longer-term solution? And if the Texas delegation said, for us to pass the supplemental we want to include a commitment that you’re going to send some National Guard early, we’d be happy to consider it.

"So this should not be hard to at least get the supplemental done. The question is are we more interested in politics, or are we more interested in solving the problem? If we’re interested in solving the problem, then there’s actually some broad consensus around a number of the issues. There may be some controversies and differences between Democrats and Republicans on some of the policy issues, but on a whole bunch of this stuff, there’s some pretty broad consensus. Let’s just get that done. Let’s do the work.

Perry (and others) have c hided the President for failing to act, and yet speaker John Boehner is preparing a lawsuit because the President has acted where Congress has refused. Obama said "this is a good test case.

"This is something you say is important, as I do. This is an area that you have prioritized, as I have. Don't wait for me to take executive actions when you have the capacity right now to go ahead and get something done. I will sign that bill tomorrow. We’re going to go ahead and do what we can administratively, but this gives us the tools to do many of the very things that Republicans are seeking.

"At the same time, I will just repeat that if we got a comprehensive bill done, it doesn't just solve this problem for a year; it solves it potentially for 20 years. And I would urge those who so far at least have failed to act on the comprehensive bill to take another look at it," Obama said.

Ultimately, though, Congress needs to pass the Comprehensive Immigration Reform because the basis for the problem is the complete breakdown of the immigration courts - that's why so many have faded into the shadows.

And the Dreamers - who represent about 2 million of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants at large in the US - should be granted a pathway to full citizenship, rather than be at the mercy of the likes of Governor Brewer.

"The Senate passed a common-sense, bipartisan bill more than a year ago. It would have strengthened the border, added an additional 20,000 Border Patrol agents. It would have strengthened our backlogged immigration courts. It would have put us in a stronger position to deal with this surge and, in fact, prevent it," Obama said, once again pushing for the House to take up the Immigration bill.

Seeing the images of protestors blocking access to buses carrying the women and children to processing centers is frankly sickening and embarrassing, and so contradicting the image the US projects of its values, bringing shame upon this nation.

Karen Rubin, Long Island Populist Examiner
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