The recent stories of a humanitarian crises along America’s southern boundary involving a tidal wave of unaccompanied minors from Central America attempting to enter the U.S. illegally or surrendering to authorities at the border has thrown gasoline on the fire of the immigration debate. Both sides, pro-amnesty and anti-amnesty, are already using the situation as a call to arms.
It’s truly amazing that the federal government with so many “experts” and commanding enormous budgets and resources could be caught totally flat-footed on this issue; no plans, no policies, no procedures – nothing. They are scrambling for temporary solutions.
I consider myself a proponent of a sensible immigration policy, those who have been here, even illegally, for some time and who have been gainfully employed with clean records should be given a path to citizenship – there is no better measure of their suitability than years as good residents. If we provide that path for them it only makes sense that we also provide the same path for their immediate family members; spouses and children, but not extended family members.
Besides humanitarian and economic concerns, we have a vital strategic interest in good relations, political, and societal stability with Mexico and Central America the source of much oil, agricultural labor, and low cost manufacturing operations that allow us to be competitive in world markets. This approach was always predicated on the proposition that the borders would be reasonably secure – not perfectly secure because that is impossible – but secure enough to withstand the pressure certain to be generated by the implementation of any path-to-citizenship policy, especially as the economy recovers and the economic gap between Mexico – Central America and the U.S. widens.
This current problem is going to make it more difficult to sell that position to either side of the immigration debate. The anti-immigration side has always argued that any amnesty policy would merely stimulate additional attempts at illegal entry and the pro-immigration side has always claimed the boarders are more secure than ever. The current situation does not really fit either argument, but the net result will certainly be expensive and cost is always an issue.
According to the Los Angeles Times, “The Office of Management and Budget warned recently that the administration would need $2.28 billion in the 2015 budget to deal with the flood of minors caught at the southern border, a massive increase from the $868 million the administration initially requested in March” and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees urged international cooperation to try to disrupt the dangerous migration (my translation – send more money). From the Washington Times, “The deputy Border Patrol chief… said in an internal memo on May 30 that border agents caught 40,000 unaccompanied children last year. They expect to apprehend 90,000 children this year, and 142,000 in 2015.” Like every bureaucratic agency, the chief has reasons to bump up the numbers; however, whatever they are, there is no arguing that the have increased dramatically.
The real solution is political and economic reforms in Mexico and Central America, but modern American administrations have always been gun-shy about being accused of “meddling” in their internal affairs. It’s time we recognized that their internal affairs are having a profound negative effect on the entire region and especially the U.S. We should have a greater self-interest in improving the nations directly south of us than those in the Middle East or Asia because no matter what happens on the immigration front, the region’s overpopulation, poverty, violence, and societal ills are always going to wind up on our doorstep.