Immigration topics frequently captivate the national media as the country continues to wait anxiously for the House of Representatives to pass any sort of comprehensive immigration legislation. In the nearly two years that have elapsed since the Senate passed its own immigration bill, Congress has not come any closer to making immigration reform a reality.
While the topic of reform typically dominates the national discussion on this issue, a new development has occurred recently that is now taking the media spotlight and creating a fervor of national discussion and debate. This new development is the tremendous influx of thousands of young foreign national children who are crossing the Southern U.S. border from Mexico and other Central American countries. These children are coming to the U.S. all alone. They have neither family members nor legal guardians with them. They are lost in a country they do not know and must navigate immigration laws they cannot understand due to their tender age.
Current Proposed Solutions
Given this burgeoning humanitarian crisis, the President is faced with making critically important decisions that will affect not only these children but the entire country as well. President Obama has received criticism from immigrant and child rights advocacy groups because his current method of coping with this crisis is to fast-track these children’s cases through deportation proceedings in order to return them to their families in their home countries.
However, many of these children are coming to the U.S. specifically to find a safe haven from their home countries, many of which (such as El Salvador and Colombia) are ravaged by gang violence and drug trafficking.
Therefore, advocacy groups are urging the President to refrain from deporting the children and instead welcome them to the U.S. and allow them to stay in the country.
The President’s Power to Designate Refugees
It is completely within the President’s powers to do so, as Section 207(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act empowers the President to declare these children “refugees” in order to admit them to the U.S. without visas. Specifically, this statute gives any president the ability to affirm that grave humanitarian concerns justify the classification of an emergency refugee situation.
Previous Emergency Designations
Importantly, not only is President Obama legally empowered to take this course of action, but U.S. presidents have already done so in the past, setting a precedent that is perfectly legal to follow in 2014. Specifically, the U.S. welcomed more than 14,000 Cuban minors from 1960 to 1962 pursuant to the Operation Pedro Pan. Additionally, during World War II the U.S. collaborated with Britain, Australia, Canada, South Africa, and New Zealand to send millions of refugees to safety in the wake of Adolf Hitler’s London bombings.
Moreover, between 1845 and 1855, the U.S. assimilated more than 1.5 million refugees from Ireland who were fleeing the Potato Famine starvation.
It is clear that President Obama has the legal authority to fix this humanitarian crisis with the stroke of a pen. It is our fervent hope that the Administration will realize that this solution to the growing crisis is the right one for both the children and our country. Continue to check our blog for the most up to date news on this and all other immigration-related issues.
Additional Blog Posts
Immigration Judges Request Separation from the Department of Justice, ImmigRantings, August 19, 2013
Congress Attempts to Implement Measures to Protect Immigrants from Notarios, ImmigRantings, September 27, 2013