Despite extensive media coverage, there is probably much that you don’t know about the history of the border crisis—and what we can or should do in response. Too often the headlines are designed to stir passions, rather than inform.
At the end of next week, Congress will leave for its five-week August Recess. Between now and then legislators will be debating the issues, and no doubt many of your friends will be taking positions.
Here are the facts you need when weighing what you hear–whether on television or at a neighbor’s barbecue.
- Are you aware that since President Obama took office, it has become harder for illegal immigrants to cross our Southwestern border? This is something Fox News doesn’t usually mention.
- Did you know that in many cases, parents in Central America are not “sending” their children here? In over one-third of all cases, at least one parent is already in the U.S. When that parent came he or she didn’t dare risk taking a young child on a harrowing journey that often meant crossing a desert. But now, the horrors are escalating to a point that grandmothers, fathers and uncles are urging kids to flee to the U.S. They know that they can’t protect them, and that the police won’t .Leslie Velez, senior protection officer at the U.N. High Commission for Refugees, reports that gangs are operating “with significant impunity and targeting children at a younger and younger age. Recently there was a very public massacre and dismemberment of children as young as seven who had refused to join the gang. So it was a message to show who is in power, who is in control.”
- Did you know that even if we deport the tens of thousands of children who have come here since last October, many refugee experts agree they’ll try again—and that other children will follow them? In other words, they say, deportation will not serve as a deterrent. These kids are running for their lives.
- Are you aware that in the past the U.S. has backed military coups and paramilitary death squads in Central America? As democratically-elected governments toppled, constitutional order collapsed, and the gangs took over the streets. Does this mean that we are in part responsible for the exodus of kids fleeing violence at home? That is a difficult question, but definitely worth thinking about.
- Did you know that the most powerful gangs originated in Los Angeles? In the 1990s, we began deporting these thugs (via ConAir), and dumped them back in countries ill-equipped to police them.
- Had you heard that the kids coming in today are not trying to avoid border patrols? They are rafting, swimming, and walking into the U.S. in broad daylight. So the problem is not that we don’t have enough border patrols to “secure the border. “ The new immigrants are eager to turn themselves over to border officials. Why? In 2008, former President George W. Bush signed the “William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act.” This bipartisan measure mandates that the border patrols cannot simply send unaccompanied minors from Central America back to their home countries. The U.S. government must try to find responsible relatives in the U. S. and place the children with them (or in foster homes) while they await a hearing before an immigrant court judge.
Understanding this law–and why it passed so easily in 2008—is key to understanding the legal and moral quandary that President Obama and Congress now face.
- Finally, how many Americans are aware that, despite high unemployment rates in the U.S., we face a labor shortage? We need more immigrants willing to pick crops, work construction, and provide long-term care for baby-boomers.
Canada’s population also is aging, and Canada is welcoming them l —part of that country’s embrace of multiculturalism. We are not. Are we missing something?
All in all, this crisis is far more complicated than most reports acknowledge.
Before you decide where you stand on the issue, you might want to consider the media myths vs. the facts below.
On President Obama’s Role
Fiction: President Obama’s lax immigration policies have encouraged children to stream into this country.
Fact: As marauding gangs have taken over cities in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, children have been fleeing, not only to the U.S. , but to Nicaragua, Panama, Mexico, Cost Rica and Belize.
From 2008 to 2013, the UN High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) has documented a 712% increase in the number of Central Americans applying for asylum in those five countries.
Clearly President Obama’s policies on immigration did not drive their decision to seek safe haven in Panama or Costa Rica.
Fiction: Reports of violence in Central America have been greatly overblown. These children are coming to the U.S. in search of jobs, social services and better living conditions.
Fact: Street gangs in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador torture and execute young boys who refuse to join. As I explained in part 1 of this post gang members also pick out young girls who they want to be their “girl-friends”—which means they will be raped by one or more members of the gang. Neither their families nor the police can protect them. This is why they run.
According to the U.S. State Department, Guatemala now has one of the highest violent crime rates in Latin America. El Salvador reports the second-highest murder rate in Latin America, and Honduras ranks #1, world-wide.
There, child murders are up 77% from just a year ago.
Finally, note that Nicaragua, which is the poorest nation in mainland Latin America (and the second poorest in the Western Hemisphere, after Haiti) has seen a 238% increase in asylum applications from Central Americans in the last year. This serves as strong evidence that desperate children and families are not seeking “economic opportunities.”
There are no opportunities in Nicaragua. They are fleeing the mayhem at home.