Current 'humanitarian crisis'
By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor
Pictured: Senator John Cornyn
During a Wednesday, July 9, telephone conference, United States Senator John Cornyn discussed the humanitarian crisis on the Texas-Mexico border - and President Barack Obama's perceived "tone deaf" response to it.
Talking to media representatives across the state, Cornyn referenced the president's refusal to visit the border area. "Why not go to see firsthand what the president has described as a 'humanitarian crisis'? It creates the impression that he has little regard for or interest in the growing problems of the border states." During his two-day fundraising visit to Dallas and Austin, Obama toured neither the border nor detention center set up at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio.
According to Cornyn, the president's blasé attitude was indicative of his "living inside an insulated bubble." Cornyn continued, "His refusal is a political calculation rather than a policy decision. But why would he send a message that he doesn't care or that he has little respect for the people involved, the children themselves and the border patrol officers and federal agents who have been working so hard?"
$3.7 billion &
Dismissing out-of-hand Obama's much-touted round table meeting that included Governor Rick Perry, Cornyn said, "This will simply be another photo op for the president and a chance for him to give another lecture. There will be no discussion of solutions."
Regarding Obama's request from Congress for $3.7 billion to help alleviate the current crisis, Cornyn postulated that "a piece was missing" - fixing the 2008 law that calls for detention of some minor illegal immigrants pending court hearings.
Under that law, illegal immigrant minors from Central American countries, primarily Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, are treated differently from those from Mexico and Canada. Passed under the administration of President George Bush, this well-intended law was designed to curb human trafficking.
Within 72 hours of being processed, minors from Central America are turned over to the Department of Health and Human Services. In turn, HHS relinquishes the children to family members living in the United States. At that time, families are also given a date to appear at a hearing before an immigration judge.
"Ninety percent of minor detainees do not show up for their hearings and there's no enforcement. This is an unintended consequence of the law that is now being exploited by smuggling organizations," he said. "That's a success in the eyes of human traffickers and the drug cartels. To the smugglers, children are commodities, just like drugs and guns. We want to make the policies the same for everyone."
Brushing off the president's default solution of "blaming the GOP," Cornyn is apparently working with Democrat Congressman Henry Ceullar of Laredo to tweak the 2008 law. Cuellar is an outspoken critic of the president's off-hand solutions to the crisis on the border.
Additionally, Cornyn offered a plan that, he said, has already garnered bipartisan support. His solution includes:
• building more holding facilities to detain minors in protective custody. "They need a safe place to stay before their court hearings," Cornyn said.
• expediting case processing.
• assisting Mexico secure its southern border with Guatemala, which, according to Cornyn is "an ungoverned area run by gangs."
• Increasing law enforcement presence on the border. "Because border patrol agents are now changing diapers, they cannot patrol effectively," Cornyn said. "These agents are not equipped to deal with this crisis other than to process the illegal minors pouring across the border."
• utilizing the US military to execute interdictions in the waters contiguous with the southern border. Cornyn said, "Seventy-five percent of the drugs, people and weapons moved by cartels are through maritime areas."
He continued, "The president has offered no solutions to this crisis except to throw money at it. He wants $3.7 billion with no reforms."
Cornyn continued, "He has shown a disdain and lack of commitment to the rule of law. Americans are disappointed and angry." Cornyn indicated there would be "no blank check" until Obama began to enact a solution to the crisis. "Will the president 'faithfully execute' the laws of this county?" Cornyn asked. "No, you can't trust him."
Why tour border?
When a reporter asked Cornyn what he expected the president to learn by touring the border, the senator replied, "The president needs to see this problem from its beginning. He needs to see its human faces. He could thank the border patrol and other federal agencies for helping with the crisis. He could explain to mayors why they have to use their tax dollars to pay for the federal government's failure.
"Unless you see it for yourself, I don't think you get a full appreciation for the nature and the scope of this crisis. That's something I think the president could benefit from."
Cornyn sees a direct link between the current border crisis and Obama's 2012 Dreamer Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. DACA ordered immigration authorities to create a process for certain youth to gain temporary legal status and the possibility of a work permit.
Implemented by then-Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, DACA directed US Customs and Border Protection, US Citizenship and Immigration Services and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement to practice "prosecutorial discretion" towards some individuals who immigrated to the United States as children and currently reside in the country illegally.
This, Cornyn reasoned, cracked the floodgates that are now wide open on the border. In 2011, 6,000 unaccompanied children crossed the border with Mexico, which increased to 25,000 in 2012.
"Since October, 52,000 unaccompanied minors have crossed the border and next year it could become a 150,000 problem. In that case, $3.7 billion would not be sufficient," Cornyn said. "This president seems determined to be tone deaf in terms of the human consequences of the policies that he himself has caused. He has given the impression that we're not going to enforce the law, so that's basically been a huge magnet. It will continue to get worse before it gets better."