McALLEN, TEXAS – There’s little doubt that the border regions on the front lines of the massive surge of unaccompanied kids streaming across the U.S. border illegally are in desperate need of resources. The question for lawmakers here is how to best patch up the problem: Increase border security and speed up deportations for thousands of children, or target the source of the issue in the Central American countries where the migrants are coming from.
“The border between the U.S. and Mexico is less secure than it has ever been,” Texas Governor Rick Perry said Thursday at a field hearing held by the House Committee on Homeland Security.
The Republican governor is pressing President Obama to come down to Texas and put more boots on the ground across the southwest border. Perry this month said he would commit Texas to as much as $1.3 million per week alone to empower the Department of Public Safety to patrol the border.
“States should not be required to protect what is the federal responsibility under the U.S. constitution,” said Republican Texas Rep. Michael McCaul, the committee chairman.
The lawmakers expressed concern over the factors driving the children to make the treacherous journey on their own in the first place. The administration has said extreme violence, crime and poverty in Central American countries, primarily Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, was driving kids out of the region. But officials are aggressively trying to squash false rumors that the kids who are coming across the border qualify for the temporary legal status given to so-called DREAMers who were brought into the U.S. when they were children prior to 2007.
“These children are not perpetrators or criminals – they are, in many cases, victims,” Texas Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, a Democrat, said in a statement. “Many of these children are also likely undertaking the dangerous journey to reunite with family members in the U.S., in the absence of action on comprehensive immigration reform.”
The administration is launching a public service announcement campaign with more than 6,500 spots on television and radio to run in El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico, warning families to not send their children on the dangerous journey north.
“Some may think that allowing them to stay here is a humane option, I assure you it’s not,” Perry said. “Nobody is doing any of these children the slightest favor by delaying the rapid return of them to their countries, that let them stay in the country is a favor and I assure you that’s not true.”
“Allowing them to remain here will only encourage the next group of individuals to undertake this very dangerous and life-threatening journey,” he added.
President Obama this week outlined a set of proposals for Congress to funnel $2 billion to bolster border security, dispatch immigration judges to the region, and expedite deportations for the children. Meanwhile, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson is dispatching at least 150 more border patrol agents to the region.
“We face an urgent situation at the Rio Grande Valley,” Border Patrol agent Kevin Oaks said.
The Rio Grande Valley has seen a greater number of unaccompanied minors streaming illegally across the border than any other region in the country. More than 52,000 children in total have crossed into the U.S. since October; a number that may reach 90,000 this year.