CONGRESSWOMAN SHEILA JACKSON LEE SAYS THESE UNACCOMPANIED CHILDREN CROSSING THE BORDER IS A HUMANITARIAN CRISIS AND THERE IS NO NEED TO BRING IN THE NATIONAL GUARD
Washington, DC – Today, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, a Senior Member of the House Homeland Security Committee and Ranking Member of the Border and Maritime Security Subcommittee, released the following statement regarding today’s full Committee hearing on “Dangerous Passage: The Growing Problem of Unaccompanied Children Crossing the Border”:
“On a daily basis, waves of children ranging from toddlers to teenagers are fleeing violence, oppression, and economic desperation from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador – many of them sent by their families. They are simply looking for a safe-haven. As an intense and significant humanitarian crisis develops, we are finding its origins to be as complex as its implications.
“It is irresponsible to attribute this crisis to one U.S. policy, or for that matter one U.S. President. Let it be known that this crisis is not just an immigration matter nor is it just a foreign policy matter. This crisis is not exclusive to the United States. Much of the Western Hemisphere is seeing this crisis. According to the United Nations, these children are streaming into Mexico, Panama, Nicaragua, and Belize as well as Canada and the United States.
“From our perspective, we seem to be barraged, on almost a daily basis, by troubling images of vulnerable children, many still clutching their meager belongings, crossing the border into the United States and being immediately apprehended by Border Patrol Officers. This fiscal year alone, Border Patrol Officers have apprehended and detained over 50,000 unaccompanied children at the southwestern border.
“The number of kids arriving at our border without their parents seems to grow by the day. The influx of these kids has certainly strained Border Patrol resources, but the men and women of the Border Patrol have risen to the challenge. In 2008, then-President George Bush signed the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act. The law recognizes that special care is demanded when dealing with the young and vulnerable. Under those laws, the Border Patrol is required to take unaccompanied children who are not from Mexico into custody, screen them, and transfer them to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement.
“For those out there that are looking for simple answers and to lay blame with on President Obama’s policy on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or even the Senate passed comprehensive immigration reform legislation, I would note that neither would apply to these kids. Hence, the assertion that the recent surge in unaccompanied children is due to lax immigration enforcement does not pass the smell test.
“Looking out to the long-term, we need to do more to turn the tide on this crisis by, among other things, fostering greater stability among our neighbors and dissuading families from taking such action. We must also establish:
- more processing centers that are also more humane.
- we must also engage groups such as the Children’s Defense Fund, First Focus, the Center for Missing and Exploited Children and Houston Based Children at Risk.
- we also need to increase the number of immigration judges.
“These children are not running from authority but towards authority. Dehumanizing and labeling these kids and their parents will not yield a solution. Labeling this as an ‘Administration failure’ will not address what is actually going on in El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala that would cause a parent to hand over their son or daughter to a smuggler or to send that child on a perilous trek through Central America and Mexico to the United States.”