‘merica isn’t having a good day when almost three dozen mothers and kids are flown back to a worn-torn country and it doesn’t make as much a blip as, for example, José Antonio Vargas–immigrant who carries his passport from the Philippines and a pocket-sized copy of the Constitution–being detained by Border Patrol agents at a checkpoint. Never mind that between 40% and 58% of the kids may qualify for political asylum, special juvenile immigration status, or protections under international conventions the U.S. signed. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson advocated for “speedy” deportations in a Senate hearing as I write about in VIDEO: Unaccompanied Kids, Humanitarian “Crisis” or “Situation”? On MSNBC. There’s roughly a 1 in 2 chance that President Obama and his Administration’s rush to deport will sentence refugee children with legitimate relief claims to rape, torture, and death upon returned to their home countries.
The unaccompanied children and the humanitarian crisis at our Southwest border is the topic discussed on MSNBC with guest host TJ Holmes, Nevada political reporter Jon Ralston, and former Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison.
Immigration judges are overwhelmed, with only 59 courts responsible for 366,758 cases that take an average of 578 days to process. Now add the challenge of ascertaining a child’s claim. What if she is a 2 year old who on average possesses a vocabulary of 200 words and in another language–Spanish. How do you extract critical information from a kid suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder from violence witnessed or experienced? Or just the brutal journey north? The President and our lawmakers would wilt after 10 minutes without air conditioning in the D.C. summer heat. Imagine making the treacherous journey north, stuffed in trains, stash houses, swimming across the perilous Rio Grande, or walking for days in the scorching desert. How will immigration judges accurately evaluate in a proposed 72 hours and gather enough facts to recommend a stay in deportation or a removal? More than evidence-based, immigration judges will be making life and death situations on little more than a hope and a prayer.
Interestingly, another topic our panel was asked to prepare is Texas Governor Rick Perry’s recent Washington Post Op-Ed, not on the border crisis but on the Obama Administration’s policy towards Syria which Jon Ralston nailed in his succinct analysis: He’s running for President!
America has strongly condemned Syrian strong man Bashar al-Assad’s treatment of civilians, especially women and children. We are the first nation to respond to international disasters, sending in aid to help tens of thousands of survivors begin their road to recovery. In fact, if a hurricane or earthquake had decimated parts of these children’s Central American countries of origin, we would be among the first ones helping. This crisis brings up many legitimate questions: the powers of our different branches of government, how secure is our border security and does our law enforcement just apprehend or more actively work to deter illegal crossings? How about due process–that tenet of our constitution?
Critically, how we deal with these children brings up questions about who we are. Not only is this a nation built by immigrants, we have accepted hundreds of thousands of refugees–including Iraqis, Cubans, Bosnians, Vietnamese, and during the civil strife of the 1980s, Central Americans. If we are to turn our backs when turning away these children, then at least ensure that those being sent back don’t have a shred of a legitimate claim to asylum or a youth visa, or a first degree relative. It’s simply impossible for an overworked and overburden immigration judge to do this in a few days.
Unfortunately, MSNBC did not post this video which aired on July 12, 2014. If it becomes available, I will update this post.
UPDATE: Click below on video to watch segment.Few days remain before Congress’ month-long summer recess. Do you believe the President and Congress will come to a compromise before the Fall?