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Crossing the Line: Border Crisis as Immigrants flood Texas
An immigrant peers out from a detention area at the McAllen Border Patrol Station in McAllen, Texas, July 15. A solution for the growing crisis of tens of thousands of unaccompanied children showing up at the U.S.-Mexico border is looking elusive with three weeks left before Congress leaves Washington for its annual August recess.
Wilson County NewsJuly 23, 2014 4,440 views 24 comments
The question is not if they’ll come; they’re here. Whatever they may be called -- undocumented immigrant minors, undocumented alien children, illegal aliens -- they continue to arrive, in huge numbers, at the U.S.-Mexico border.
In Karnes City, a detention center designed for male immigrants is being converted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to house women who entered the United States illegally with their children.
“The numbers are atrocious and somebody better get off their tail and do something about it; bottom line,” Gonzales County Sheriff Glen Sachtleben was unequivocal in offering his view of the situation.
There’s nothing new about people crossing from south of the border for economic opportunities in the United States; it’s occurred as long as the nations have been neighbors. What’s new about now is the age of the travelers and the sheer numbers of them.
Those numbers and the Obama administration’s proposal to allow them to stay, once here, drew protestors July 18 and 19 to the Mexican Consulate and highway overpasses. Area residents displayed “Secure our Border” signs and more.
As Border Patrol and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) personnel catch and detain many entering the country illegally, border cities and communities are strapped -- financially and logistically -- to deal with the influx of younger immigrants. Laredo Mayor Raul Salinas is on record stating his city will not divert any more of the city’s public funds to provide aid for detainees.
Faith organizations, which have long stepped into the breach to help, also are feeling the pinch.
Baptist Child and Family Services withdrew plans July 16 to convert a $50 million resort in Weslaco into a 600-bed facility to house unaccompanied minors, after the proposal was “misreported to the public,” according to BCFS. The proposal aimed to “find a solution for providing safe, humane care for the children flooding across the border and overwhelming U.S. Border Patrol and communities.
BCFS also is seeking advertising costs, to place ads inviting area families to house such minors as they await the processing of their applications to remain in the United States. The families would be screened, according to BCFS, and paid for “fostering” the minors.
It’s been called a humanitarian crisis, as many of the undocumented minors may be fleeing drug cartels, civil uprisings, and economic distress in their home countries.
U.S. Sen. John Cornyn and U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, both from Texas, introduced bipartisan, bicameral legislation to respond to the situation -- the HUMANE Act.
The proposed act would, Cornyn said July 21, “... make sure current law is actually enforced by speeding up court dates and the removal process for unaccompanied children. It is also worth reminding the American people that (1) there are numerous fraud-prevention measures in our current asylum laws, which the HUMANE Act would not change, and (2) more than 70 percent of those seeking asylum in the U.S. last year were ultimately not awarded status.”
“We’re trying to find a solution related to the issue in the legislature to keep legal protections intact and to provide due process faster,” Cuellar told the Wilson County News July 21, in Floresville to honor a local veteran. “For some of these people, before a judge sees them, it takes three to five years. We’re trying to put them before a judge faster.
“There’s no changes in the current laws, and no changes in the legal protections,” Cuellar said.
As Congress waits to act, the flood continues along the Rio Grande.
Border cities and communities across Texas are struggling to cope -- while the women and children are detained, they must be housed, fed, clothed, and given medical care.
Who will provide it? At what cost? Where will the funds come from? And how do we deal with them -- as immigrants, asylum seekers, refugees?
Officials across South Texas, approached regarding this overwhelming influx and resultant impact on communities, states, and our nation, offered varying responses.
Many of the immigrant youth are regarded as adults in their home countries, Sachtleben said. Here, however, they’re given the same protection as children.
“Our facilities, our laws, etc., don’t take this into account,” Sachtleben said. “... I honestly don’t have any answers.”
Wilson County Judge Marvin Quinney said there are too many unknown factors to accurately respond. He echoed Sachtleben’s concerns about the age and life experiences, citing some cases where minors have known gang affiliation, even at the age of 11 or 12.
“Some have baggage, such as disease or otherwise,” Quinney said. “I don’t know a real good solution for what we’re dealing with. I don’t know the answers. But we have lots of children in our own country with needs not being met.”
A possible solution would be to send aid to the countries where the minors originate, suggested Guadalupe County Sheriff Arnold Zwicke.
“I would hope we will not bring the problems they have at the border, as we do not have the facilities to take in these immigrants, which indeed would impact Guadalupe County financially and would add problems to the overall safety and security as well,” Zwicke said. “I believe if we are wanting to do a humanitarian act, we should address the problems in the countries they are coming from as we do in other countries, rather than bring a time bomb to America. It is my opinion that it is sad we do not take care of our homeless citizens and our soldiers who fought for this country first.”
Whatever they are called -- undocumented alien children, undocumented immigrant minors, illegal aliens -- they are here. Texans -- from elected officials to school districts, law-enforcement officials to medical practitioners, and ranchers to urban residents -- are required to deal with the influx. And federal officials continue to struggle with border security and immigration issues as the human flood continues.
‘It is my opinion that it is sad we do not take care of our homeless citizens and our soldiers who fought for this country first.’ -- Guadalupe County Sheriff Arnold Zwicke
‘The numbers are atrocious and somebody better get off their tail and do something about it; bottom line.’ -- Gonzales County Sheriff Glenn Sachtleben
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