The topic of immigration is once again captivating the national media this week, but this time the story is much sadder than previous news coverage.
Since the beginning of the fiscal year, border patrol agents have apprehended more than 52,000 undocumented foreign national children who were not accompanied by their parents or legal guardians. Now, in order to discourage future border crossings and contain this increasing influx of unaccompanied and undocumented foreign national children, in a somewhat surprising move President Obama asked Congress to authorize him to deport these children back to their home countries.
President Obama’s Request
The administration is requesting that Congress approve a one-time emergency funding for increased border security and help in returning these children to their home countries. Many of these children fled to the U.S. because they were falsely informed that they would be allowed to stay in the country as long as their parents or legal guardians did not come with them. (Although no official program exists that would grant U.S. permanent residency to these children, there is a policy in place that requires the Department of Homeland Security to transfer children to the Office of Refugee Resettlement. This office must act in the child’s best interests, which typically means sending the child to live with a U.S. relative if possible).
As a result of these thousands of children entering the country without authorization at the southwestern border of the U.S., hundreds of them are now being transported to as far away as Oklahoma and California for the purposes of immigration processing.
The request puts Congress in a difficult position because making the decision to vote to deport children is not an easy one. Importantly, it also goes against long-standing U.S. policy and would go against a 2008 law that President George W. Bush passed as part of the U.S. effort to guarantee immigration protection for children fleeing the poverty and violence of Central American nations.
The vote will likely also largely depend on political concerns because many Republicans may be torn between the desire to draw a hard line on undocumented immigration and the bad press that would almost certainly result from voting for deportation.
While the President intends to make his formal request this week, the administration predicts that Congress will not move on its vote until after its Independence Day vacation.
What Happens if Congress Grants the Request
If Congress approves President Obama’s request, the $2 billion in emergency funding would be directed specifically to the Rio Grande Valley area and other locations that witness a large number of attempted undocumented foreign national border crossings.
However, the granting of the request would also result in the undoing of the aforementioned protections allotted to the children, meaning that their access to immigration hearings would be greatly decreased.
Since Congress is currently on holiday, it remains to be seen whether the President’s request will be granted. As explained above, the decision to do so would result in very serious, long-lasting, and far-reaching implications for the thousands of unaccompanied foreign national children currently detained in the United States. Continue to visit our blog as our immigration lawyers keep readers up to date on the latest news regarding this issue.
Additional Blog Posts
Democrats Propose New Immigration Reform, ImmigRantings, October 30, 2013
Immigration Judges Request Separation from the Department of Justice, ImmigRantings, August 19, 2013