It is past time for our nation’s lawmakers to take action to address the skyrocketing levels of unaccompanied migrant children attempting to cross our country’s southern border. This recent surge is a humanitarian crisis, but, as with most important issues, this Congress is acting with no sense of urgency.
Two weeks ago, President Obama sent an emergency request for funding to Congress to address the crisis, and I applaud him for that. Now, despite crowing for years about the President’s actions on immigration, House Republicans do not support his proposal.
At current rates, an estimated 72,000 unaccompanied children will be apprehended attempting to cross the border in 2014, double the amount from last year. In addition to this startling increase, the demographics are shifting as well. In the past, unaccompanied minors have, for the most part, come from Mexico. Now, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras make up the majority of nations from which children are attempting to get here alone.
Children fleeing Central America for a better life in America are leaving heinous acts of violence back home. Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala rank first, fifth, and sixth, respectively, in murder rates worldwide, largely because of gang violence. Gangs across the region are drafting children to be child soldiers in their organizations and murdering and dismembering those who refuse. We have a moral obligation to make sure these children are not sent back to die a gruesome death.
The surge in unaccompanied minors has placed an enormous strain on our border, and our existing infrastructure has failed to keep pace. The volume of children coming to the border is too much for border patrol to handle effectively, and they are set to run out of money by the end of the month. Once apprehended, the children most at risk are taken into our country, but we are running out of places to send them. Then, their cases must be processed by an overwhelmed and understaffed immigration court system that often takes months to reach a resolution.
We need a multi-pronged, comprehensive approach to address such a complex situation.
It is time for this Congress to take the moral high ground. These children have nowhere else to turn, yet Republican lawmakers are more focused on playing partisan games, attempting to exploit a situation for political gain. The America I know does not gamble with the lives of children and the worst thing we could do is just sit on the President’s request. Congress is about to recess and this isn’t a crisis we can punt on. We need to act.