The White House released a Fact Sheet this week highlighting measures being taken by the Obama Administration to address the recent surge of migrants crossing into the United States from Mexico. A significant percentage of those seeking entry have been unaccompanied children fleeing crime, gangs and economic impoverishment in their home countries of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. Many come believing they will be able to reunite with their parents or benefit from programs such as Temporary Protected Status (TPS) or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), for which they do not qualify. Along their trek to the United States migrants risk their lives at the hands of human smugglers and other recidivist elements. The recent wave of young arrivals from Central America has simply overwhelmed the U.S. government’s capacity to detain, feed and house them, and has put the subject of immigration back in the headlines.
It would be easy to blame the Obama Administration for encouraging the recent influx of illegal migration through its DACA program. After all, letting young people who are here illegally through no fault of their own apply for deferral of deportation and a work permit might send mixed messages to residents of other countries desperate to leave their homes for the promise of a better life in the United States. On the other hand, the United States did nothing to create the bleak social and economic conditions prompting so many to make the danger fraught journey through Central America and Mexico to the United States. And indeed the Fact Sheet describes several economic and partnership initiatives the United States is taking with Central America and Mexico to address the problems of gangs, crime and lack of economic opportunity in hopes of stemming the tide of illegal immigration.
In the humanitarian crisis building along our Southern Border House Republicans may feel vindicated in their calls for increased border security and enforcement. But the Senate passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill one year ago which called for the investment of huge amounts of money and the deployment of state-of-the-art technology to strengthen border security along the U.S.-Mexico border. The House of Representatives has still not take up that legislation. There is an opportunity now to do so. More than ever, the United States needs a comprehensive approach to promoting legal immigration which includes not only an expanded supply of visas for high-tech workers, entrepreneurs and investors, but also a humane border security and interior enforcement component that ensures our national security while deterring non-bona fide border crossings. Lives are depending on it.
Timothy D. Widman is a Immigration Attorney and the owner of the Law Office of Timothy D. Widman, with offices in San Jose and Cupertino.