Image Source: Romel Jacinto
Recently, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing entitled "An Administrative Made Disaster: The South Texas Border Surge of Unaccompanied Alien Minors."
Depending on how you access your news, you may or may not know there's been a significant influx recently of children crossing the border without adults.
The very nature of the situation breaks my heart. I mean, how can it not? I'm a mom and a human. Children are attempting this journey that is horribly dangerous for adults. They are risking injury, dehydration, unspeakable violence, and death.
It's been hard for me to reflect on what's been happening actually. Partly because it flips my empathy switch in a way that I just want to cry. And partly because the some responses makes me so furious that I just want to burn things down.
National Game of Capture the FlagHouse Republicans have washed their hands of immigration reform this year and simply decided they will not deal with it. There have been accusations that the little work that has been accomplished is what's inspiring this recent surge in unaccompanied minors at the border.
The rhetoric has become that until current laws are enforced, the House will not discuss additional immigration reform.
Obama has a reputation for record deportations. I'm not gonna lie... for me personally, that does nothing for his approval ratings. But for those who favor deportation as an immigration solution, they should feel differently. He's done about as much as can be done in that area.
Deportation and border enforcement can only go so far. This is a much bigger issue than a nationwide game of capture the flag.
Why Are Kids Leaving?
In fact, the factors encouraging children to leave are multi-faced. One major one is the levels of violence in Central America escalating to levels that are causing families and children to literally flee their homes. Per 100,000 people, the murder rate is 90.4 (Honduras), 41.2 (El Salvador), and 39.9 (Guatemala).
The resulting exodus is not a U.S. issue alone. Belize, Panama, Costa Rica and other nearby countries report immigration increases around 435% from those three Central American countries. (Source)
"An Administration-Made Disaster"
But actually, I can get on board with this crisis being labeled "An Administrative Made Disaster." I just may disagree on what the U.S. needs to take responsibility for.
We love deporting gang members.
The lack of a legal future is one contributing factor to poor, Latino youth joining gangs. But once caught, regardless of how long they've lived in the States or even if they know Spanish, gang members are deported to their country of birth.
I recognize that our current system offers little to no alternative. However, it must also be recognized that when you deport hoards of U.S.-trained gang members to tiny, developing countries, you're simply exporting violence.
We love drugs.
Guatemala recently discussed legalizing the transport of drugs in the country in efforts to curb drug-related violence. The logic was that it is neither a drug-producing country nor a high consumption country. However, they caught in between those two. (In case you weren't sure... the U.S. is the big consumer.)
Drugs headed to meet the needs of the U.S. often travel through Guatemala to get there. The Guatemalan government has approached the U.S. to do something about our high drug demand to no avail. In the meantime, Guatemalans were dying in the violence that surrounds trafficking illegal substances.
We love cheap corn.
Once NAFTA created "free trade" (note: not "fair trade") in this part of the world, it had devastating impacts on Latin American farming. Once local farms began to decline, the resulting crushing poverty has been fueling migration in and around that part of the world ever since.
We won't pass immigration reform.
Some are convinced that these migrants are coming because they've heard the U.S. is sympathetic to children. It's likely that false rumors of DREAM Act eligibility or amnesty have had a role.
I'd love to think that some of these 9 year olds crossing the border alone are doing it all to plan for their college education. But I think that's a reach, don't you? And honestly, if they are that committed to their future educational opportunities, maybe they should study in place of those folks who just plan to party their way to graduation.
I think that if immigrants are watching the immigration reform pot, waiting for it to boil, they are not inspired by all the pathways we've offered. (You know... since really, we've offered zero.) Couldn't it be more likely that someone's like "Okay, they're not going to do anything. We can't wait. Pack your bags." People will not be ignored for political games.
Many are calling this surge of children at the border a humanitarian, refugee crisis. This moment isn't "a move" by Central America in the political game that is immigration reform. It's a crisis.
I feel like I'm in Vegas and the House has all the cards. They are refusing to deal with this issue, even though the Senate already passed Reform. Even though the country overwhelming favors reform. Something must be done. Do something!
Families won't wait. Survival can't be put on hold.
There's so much more to this issue than I can possibly unpack, so I thought I'd include some links to check out. You may also want to follow BorderLinks on Facebook. They post some great info.
Video (about 12 minutes) - PBS
Video (about 2 minutes) - Vox
Amazing photographs of children traveling - MailOnline
On Capitol Hill, A Debate Over What's Driving Central American Exodus - NPR
Migrant Children Flee Violence in Home Countries - G92
To Understand Child Migration, Look Beyond the Border - HuffingtonPost
Some Statistical Analysis - Center for American Progress