We are in the midst of a humanitarian crisis that has left more than 52,000 children, many without their parents, in limbo at America’s borders. Texas, along with other southwestern border states, has experienced an influx of undocumented immigrants. It is during these times that we all must exercise thoughtfulness in the midst of crisis.
The children that recently converged on our borders double the total number of children from Central and South America that attempted to enter the United States in 2013. They are ten times more than the number of children that attempted entry in 2009. Many of these children are victims of violent crimes in their home countries, and are negatively impacted by unrest that exists in their places of origin.
In some parts of our country, these children have been met with hostilities and vitriol from citizens protesting their mere presence. In North Texas, however, they have received a compassionate reception.
Two thousand of these children will be housed in three different locations located throughout Dallas County. Recently, President Obama requested nearly $4 billion in emergency funding from Congress to address the immigration dilemma facing the nation.
While many Republicans blame President Obama for the influx of children, it was legislation signed by former President George W. Bush, the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 that provided safeguards to young people that were not citizens of Mexico or Canada that reached America’s borders.
The legislation prohibited unaccompanied children from being quickly returned to their home countries. It mandated that they be provided with legal counsel, and be afforded an immigration hearing. Additionally, the law required that migrating children be handed over to the Department of Health and Human Services, which was directed to locate family members, if they existed, that might care for them.
Certainly, given the historical record of child immigration from countries located south of our borders, the present situation cannot be blamed on President Obama or policies of his administration. Republicans in Congress that refuse to consider comprehensive immigration reform shoulder much of the blame for the posture that we now find ourselves facing.
This is a time to be compassionate, and to assist children who, through no fault of their own, find themselves in a country that is foreign to them. Many took perilous journeys from their countries with little more than the clothes that were on their backs.
I am very proud of the people of North Texas who have opened their hearts, and have expressed a desire and commitment to provide shelter, food, and health care for the children. Indeed, we have a moral obligation to ensure that they are treated humanely.
A responsible and reasonable response to this crisis requires bi-partisan Congressional action. Congress must act swiftly to pass comprehensive immigration reform that will assist these children, and bring millions of undocumented immigrants out from the shadows of our nation.