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article imageOp-Ed: America: Dumping ground or safe refuge?

By Karen Graham     Jun 13, 2014 in Politics
According to CNN News on Friday, in the past year, over 47,000 children have made the journey from Central America, often alone, to the U.S. border. Officially, they are called Unaccompanied Children, or UACs by the Department of Homeland Security.
The United States has become a dumping ground for thousands of Central American children, sent off by their families on a perilous journey of a thousand miles or more, often alone and unable to speak our language. They come with little more than the clothes on their backs.
Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) was critical of President Obama on Tuesday, saying Obama has created a "human magnet" with what he called the administrations unlawful approach to immigration policies. But at the same time, and in the same breath, Cornyn said America had a duty to care for them.
“They need to be taken care of, I mean they’ve been left, basically dumped at America’s doorstep, and we need to treat them compassionately we need to make sure they get the care they need,” Cornyn explained to reporters on Capitol Hill on Tuesday afternoon.
He added that by the end of the fiscal year in September, the number of UACs would reach 60,000 or more. According to the U.S. Border Patrol, they are apprehending anywhere from 200 to 250 unaccompanied children every day trying to cross the borders.
Children being housed at detention centers at border.
Children being housed at detention centers at border.
America's Real News
“If the message is that America’s door is open to anybody and everyone who wants to come here, people are going to flood in,” Cornyn said. “In this case some of the most vulnerable that you can imagine.” Cornyn also shared conversations he had with Border Patrol officials about some 200 "sex offenders" that have been mixed in with the 49,000 detained illegal immigrants since last year.
While Cornyn told reporters he really didn't know what we should do with all those children, he did say we should "make sure they are OK now." But the senator did make a good suggestion, which probably will go over Obama's head. Cornyn suggested that the U.S. use the aid it has been spending on rebuilding some Mexican cities hit by violence, to strengthen Mexico's southern border instead.
“That 500-mile border between Guatemala and Mexico is a sieve,” Cornyn said during a conference call with reporters. “Once these unaccompanied minors or other adults get into the hands of the gangs that smuggle them through areas controlled by the Zetas or other cartels, this is not a benign situation. This is a dangerous and deadly … journey.”
The aid package Cornyn is talking about is the Mérida Initiative, passed in 2008 while George W. Bush was president. It amounted to more than $1.4 billion to be used for training and equipment for Mexico and Central America, although Mexico has received most of the aid. While there has been some attempt by the U.S. to help Mexico secure its borders, it is also obvious they have been overwhelmed.
Jeh Johnson, with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security told a Congressional committee on Wednesday the DHS had "all hands on deck" in dealing with what is now being called a humanitarian crisis. Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said during the meeting that it was the Obama administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) that was the cause of the surge.
“You can see sometime after [DACA], the numbers spike dramatically,” Cruz told Johnson during the committee hearing. “Is it really your testimony that granting amnesty to some 800,000 people who came here illegally as children had no effect in causing a dramatic increase of children being handed over to international drug cartels to be smuggled in here illegally?” (The administration’s count of DACA recipients is approximately 560,000.)
Johnson told the committee the minors arriving now would not be covered under DACA, and that the main reason for the huge numbers of children coming across our borders was due to the violence in Central America. He also said the DACA deferrals only apply to those children that came to the U.S. before 2007. Cruz immediately called the answer a "red herring," saying that while violence may be a legitimate reason, it does not explain the unaccompanied children.
According to an April 2014 United Nations report, Honduras has the world's highest rate of homicides, with the Central American countries of Belize, El Salvador and Nicaragua ranked third, fourth and fifth.
A crime scene in San Pedro Sula  Honduras
Charles Parkinson /Monday  21 April 2014
A crime scene in San Pedro Sula, Honduras Charles Parkinson /Monday, 21 April 2014
So now we find out today that the DHS is going to fly the UACs, remember now, they are called unaccompanied children, back to Honduras. Right now, some 2,785 UACs are in the custody of the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol. Of that number, 2,168 are still in CBP hands., waiting to be transferred to HHS facilities, as required by U.S. law. A CBP official says, “The majority of these children, 1,339, are concentrated in the Rio Grande Valley (RGV) Sector of Texas.”
Overall, the Department of Health and Human Services is housing 5,685 UACs at facilities throughout the country. Those facilities have a total occupancy is 6,218. The children come from 11 different countries, but the majority come from Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, and El Salvador.
To put it bluntly, the dilemma has come down to one question: What are we supposed to do with these children? The Christian Scientist Monitor is even more blunt when they ask, "Are children fleeing Central American violence refugees who need asylum or illegal gold-diggers who need to go home?"
The question comes at a time when the nation is divided politically on immigration reform, and some southern states, particularly Texas and Arizona are being stretched to their limits in being forced to take care of them. On the one side of the fence are those of us that say, "How do you stop all these kids from getting into the US?" and complain our borders are too open and our regulations are too lax.
Yet the people standing on the opposite side of that same fence point out that the U.S. was built on the backs of immigrants. These people say we should stick to American principles and the tradition of being a nation that offers refuge and protects the human rights of all people.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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