President Obama has made it clear that he will not wait for Congress to act on priorities dear to him but for the past two months he has done almost nothing about a real crisis: the thousands of often unaccompanied children from Central American countries that have arrived illegally into the United States during this time frame. It is time for that to change.
This crisis reached a boiling point two days ago in a small California town where angry crowds thwarted detained migrants from entering their community. While some of the actions and words used by these protesters cannot be condoned, the anger is easy to understand. Shelters and military bases have become so overwhelmed by the constant flood of children that the federal government is transporting the children to states as far north as Michigan in order to create room. It has also renewed worries over a public health crisis given the sheer number of people in cramped quarters and the fact that illegal immigrants cannot be screened for diseases while crossing the border.
The newly arrived illegal immigrant children will also overwhelm the immigration court system and delays that have already persisted for years will grow even longer. This makes timely deportations nearly impossible and fuels perceptions that crossing the U.S. border means a free pass. This not only means that the children will be able to attend public schools despite not being legal, but criminals here illegally will be able to stay in America longer as well.
The Obama administration estimates it will catch up to 90,000 children trying to illegally cross the Mexican border without their parents by the end of the current budget year in September. That means thousands more will slip through the cracks. Only strong, immediate action will reduce the number.
To Obama's credit, he intends to add more immigration judges and detention facilities to process the asylum claims and ensure quicker deportation. But there are other steps Obama needs to take to at least alleviate the illegal minors crisis. Sending the National Guard to help patrol the border and putting border patrol agents back on duty would be a welcome start. There is nowhere near enough manpower right now and it is not the Border Patrol's job to watch the kids. In addition, gang members, drug dealers, and other sorts of vermin are arriving and making this country a more dangerous place.
Another step President Obama could take is to suspend the Deferred Action Program for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) enacted by executive order in 2012 until the crisis is under control. One of the main reasons for the border crossings is that many of the children and their parents think DACA applies to them and that they will be able to gain asylum in the U.S. Suspending DACA as a direct response to children crossing the border would signal that there is no benefit for them. Postponing any further executive action on immigration would not hurt either.
For Obama, waiting to solve a crisis when you are willing to use your "phone and a pen" for more minor matters makes little sense. Time for the president to get serious or the country will suffer more as a result.