Immigration officials were caught in an untenable position. And then they made it worse.
Unaccompanied minors from Central America, as well as mothers with young children, have been crossing the Rio Grande into south Texas in vast numbers this year. Increasing gang violence in their home countries incredibly makes the long trek across Mexico a safer alternative. Some seek to reunite with parents who already crossed the border. Human smugglers promise a land of milk and honey.
They’re not heading for California, Arizona or west Texas. Those sectors of the border have been fortified. Even desperation cannot push a child into a deadly desert. Instead, they’ve targeted the most lightly guarded section of the border, where a nearly dry river is easily crossed into south Texas.
Once over, they are quickly caught, apparently part of the plan.
The Border Patrol and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement are trapped. Then, because secrecy is engrained in the culture of their parent Department of Homeland Security, they do a poor job of getting out of the trap.
Immigration officials can’t send these children back across the border. They can’t fly them back to Central America once they make a credible claim of fear of violence. They don’t have adequate facilities in south Texas to process the children. They need help.
But instead of acknowledging their problem, instead of reaching out to state leaders in Arizona and California, they surprised them.
The mayor of Nogales, AZ is speaking out about the hundreds of unaccompanied kids at a giant Border Patrol warehouse in Southern AZ. The mayor said the kids are in good care.
In Arizona, it started when families were dropped at bus stations, apparently after being processed at Arizona immigration facilities with greater capacity than those in Texas. Most, it turned out, were bound for other states.
But no one here knew this. A state that bore the brunt of the last surge in illegal immigration feared the worst. It was unconscionable that the Border Patrol and ICE said nothing.
Next came the children, bused into a warehouse of a building in Nogales. Again, the buses showed up out of nowhere, with no warning and no explanation. Hundreds of children were dumped into a building with insufficient beds and showers. If nothing else said crisis, that did.
But again, no explanation. Just that stony silence until reporters started pressing for answers. In the meantime, the vacuum of information invited politicians to puff up their outrage. SB 1070 was born in an atmosphere like this.
Silence and surprises do not serve ICE or the Border Patrol. They do not serve the people of the United States. And they do little for the children bewildered by all they are encountering.
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