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Sunday, October 23, 2016

Washington (AFP) – U.S. authorities are increasing deportations of illegal migrants along the U.S. border, as a top Obama administration official defended the White House’s handling of a flood of undocumented children.

Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson told NBC television’s Meet the Press that officials have reduced the “turnaround times” for migrants illegally entering the country along the Mexican border.

“I believe we’re going to stem this tide,” said Johnson, who added that President Barack Obama’s administration is also intensifying efforts to discourage migrants, including thousands of unaccompanied children, from making the dangerous and difficult overland journey to the United States.

“There are no free passes once you get here” for those entering the U.S. without authorization, Johnson warned.

“Our message to those who come here illegally: our border is not open to illegal migration. There is a deportation proceeding that has commenced against illegal migrants — including children,” the domestic security chief said.

The immigration issue has gained new urgency in the United States after 52,000 unaccompanied minors crossed illegally into the U.S. via America’s southern border since October.

President Barack Obama is due to travel to Texas later this week, but Johnson would not say whether a visit to the state’s border areas is on his agenda.

Meanwhile, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras — from which most of the child influx is coming — agreed to launch a multimedia and church-centered campaign against youths migrating illegally to the United States, a Salvadoran foreign ministry spokesman said.

And Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and his Guatemalan counterpart Otto Perez said they will launch a program on Monday aimed at tightening control over Central American migrants, getting people of all ages moving through Mexico in the federal system.

Evasion is currently rampant.

Representative Henry Cuellar said holes in U.S. law were to blame for the massive influx of migrants into his state of Texas, especially from Central America.

“If you’re a Mexican, you get sent back — mother, kids, adults, you’re sent back,” the Democratic lawmaker said.

“But if you’re a noncontiguous country like the Central American countries, then the law says that you are going to be held by (the Department of) Health and Human Services, and they’re going to place you,” Cuellar told CNN’s State of the Union.

“That’s the law that we need to change right now.”

Cuellar accused the White House of being caught flat-footed by the crisis.

“It’s not the first time we have seen a surge,” Cuellar said. “The administration should have been ready.”

Obama’s Republican foes said the administration’s policies encouraged the influx.

“What has to be addressed is the security of the border. You know that. I know that. The president of the United States knows that,” said Texas Governor Rick Perry, speaking to ABC television’s This Week.

“I don’t believe he particularly cares whether or not the border of the United states is secure. And that’s the reason there’s been this lack of effort, this lack of focus, this lack of resources.”

Senator Lindsey Graham said the administration was guilty of sending the wrong signals to migrants in Central America.

“This is a specific problem created by the impression that if you get to America, you can stay,” said Graham.

“We’ve got to turn that impression around, send these children back home, and tell the countries in question if you don’t keep them, we’re going to cut all aid off.”

Overwhelmed by the massive waves of mostly lone child migrants crossing from Mexico into Texas and Arizona, the U.S. government has been forced to transfer some of them to detention centers elsewhere, including in California.

The tense debate took a contentious turn in recent days, when residents of a California town refused to allow three busloads of undocumented migrants from Texas to relocate there.

AFP Photo/Mark WIlson

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  • Dominick Vila

    Immigration has been an emotional issue since the beginning of mankind, often prompting violent reactions by those who opposed the arrival of foreigners in their homeland. What is happening today in the USA is not new, and the issue is not limited to the USA. The same is happening in Europe, where hundreds of thousands of migrants, mostly from North Africa and sub-Saharan countries are entering illegally in the search of a better life, and often to survive warfare and political persecution.
    Efforts to mitigate the influx of illegal immigrants have been made repeatedly, and unsuccessfully, by U.S. authorities. From former President Reagan’s amnesty to 4 million illegal immigrants, to Reagan granting asylum to Cubans the moment they set foot on U.S. soil, to building wars and increasing the number of border patrolmen, all our efforts have failed miserably for a simple reason: the root causes of illegal immigration have not been addressed. People don’t risk their lives coming to the USA to enjoy our scenery or weather. They come here to escape poverty, political persecution, and pursue opportunities their countries deny them. They come here because they know that many American employers are eager to hire them to overcome labor shortages and take advantage of people willing to work hard, often under terrible conditions, for substantially less than minimum wage. They also enter the USA illegally, because they know that semi-skilled workers from Mexico and Central America don’t have a chance of getting an entry visa.
    The answer does not include blocking the passage of a bus loaded with women and children on its way to a processing facility. It does not involve higher Berlin-style walls. And it does not involve amnesty, which only encourages the entry of more illegal immigrants.
    We must change our immigration laws to reflect the needs of our economy, the needs of our businesses, and we must do it in a way that is consistent with our values and traditions.
    A system that deports an illegal immigrant from Mexico, but opens its arms to those coming from countries like Guatemala, El Salvador or Honduras, gives special privileges to some based on nationality and geography, while punishing others. The law must be effective and fair to all. In this case, it must be effective and fair to Americans, and to the migrants as well.
    If we truly want to solve this problem, we must either go after the businessmen who hire illegal immigrants, or we must take steps to ensure that all workers, regardless of how they entered the USA, enjoy the protection of our laws and are obligated to meet the obligations that the rest of us are expected to fulfill. That is, pay taxes, abide by Federal, state, and local laws, and become productive members of our society.
    Unfortunately, the poisoned political climate that exists in the USA, and the special interests that benefit from the influx of illegal immigrant, preclude the implementation of long term solutions. Blaming the President that holds an all-time record of deportations and who has been clamoring for immigration reform, for a problem that has existed for many decades, and that peaked during the 1980-2007 time frame, does not help. For that matter, blaming Reagan and Bush does not help either. We need bipartisanship and pragmatism, and we need them now, or our children and grandchildren will be faced with the same problem we are having years from now.

    • stcroixcarp

      Once again Dominick, you are a voice of reason. I am very worried about what “securing the border” means. Are we going to turn our borders into Berlin wall type structures with SWAT teams and heavy artillery to be used against our neighbors? If we turn back these children, we are sowing the seeds of incredible anti-American sentiments of the future. If Lindsey Graham Cracker thinks we are facing an invasion now, just wait 25 years!

  • James Bowen

    The best way to deal with illegal immigration is to enforce the laws in the workplace. That means mandatory E-Verify, total SSN-No Matching, and devastating employer sanctions. All of this would have the effect of making it extremely difficult for illegal aliens to make a living here and for employers to profit from their behavior. If this were to happen, the demand for their labor by corrupt employers would disappear and the illegal aliens would leave on their own.