Here Are Some Possible Solutions to America’s Border Crisis

Major immigration reform is dead, but ideas are cropping up to deal with the thousands of children who have arrived unaccompanied at the border.

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 07: Young children join immigration reform protesters while marching in front of the White House July 7, 2014 in Washington, DC. During the rally participants condemned 'the President's response to the crisis of unaccompanied children and families fleeing violence and to demand administrative relief for all undocumented families'. 
National Journal
Rachel Roubein
July 7, 2014, 6:32 p.m.

Thou­sands of chil­dren have flocked to Amer­ica’s south­ern bor­der, draw­ing cries of crisis from law­makers and bor­der-state of­fi­cials even as the Re­pub­lic­an-run House in­sists that im­mig­ra­tion le­gis­la­tion will not move through Con­gress this elec­tion year.

Home­land Se­cur­ity Sec­ret­ary Jeh John­son said the de­part­ment is tak­ing “spe­cial con­sid­er­a­tions” when it comes to the re­cord num­bers of un­ac­com­pan­ied minors, placed by their par­ents in smug­glers’ hands to flee the vi­ol­ence ter­ror­iz­ing Cent­ral Amer­ica’s North­ern Tri­angle. Though John­son stopped short of say­ing wheth­er the ma­jor­ity of these kids will be de­por­ted, White House press sec­ret­ary Josh Earn­est said Monday that most un­ac­com­pan­ied minors will not qual­i­fy for hu­man­it­ari­an re­lief and will likely be sent back to their home coun­try.

While both the Right and the Left agree that an over­haul to the im­mig­ra­tion sys­tem is needed, House Speak­er John Boehner said dis­trust of the pres­id­ent makes it im­possible to move for­ward on le­gis­la­tion this ses­sion.

That hasn’t stopped mem­bers of Con­gress, and oth­ers, from float­ing pro­pos­als. Here are a few of the ideas raised in re­cent weeks to grapple with what’s now be­ing called a hu­man­it­ari­an crisis.

CUT­TING OFF AID. A bill in­tro­duced last week by Rep. Randy Weber, R-Texas, would sus­pend for­eign aid to El Sal­vador, Guatem­ala, Hon­dur­as, and Mex­ico un­til those coun­tries have taken ac­tion deemed suf­fi­cient to mit­ig­ate the num­ber of chil­dren il­leg­ally en­ter­ing the United States. It’s an ef­fort to “hold our south­ern neigh­bors ac­count­able,” the law­maker said in a state­ment. In a sim­il­ar vein, Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., in­tro­duced le­gis­la­tion Thursday to halt non­se­cur­ity as­sist­ance to Mex­ico un­til the bor­der is se­cure. 

EN­HAN­CING BOR­DER SE­CUR­ITY. Le­gis­la­tion offered by Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ar­iz., would add 6,000 full-time bor­der-patrol agents by Oc­to­ber 2017, com­plete the 700-mile south­w­est bor­der fence by Dec. 31, 2015, and in­crease the num­ber of U.S. Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion of­ficers.

DE­PLOY­ING THE NA­TION­AL GUARD. An­oth­er pro­pos­al is based on bol­ster­ing bor­der se­cur­ity by de­ploy­ing the Na­tion­al Guard. About 110 Na­tion­al Guard mem­bers cur­rently serve on the south­w­est bor­der, ac­cord­ing to Capt. John Fesler, a Na­tion­al Guard spokes­man, and a new bill could in­crease that num­ber dra­mat­ic­ally.

In­tro­duced by Rep. Dav­id Sch­weikert, R-Ar­iz., on June 17, the South­w­est Bor­der Pro­tec­tion Act of 2014 would al­low Na­tion­al Guard mem­bers to be de­ployed to a giv­en state’s U.S.-Mex­ico bor­der upon the gov­ernor’s re­quest and De­fense Sec­ret­ary Chuck Hagel’s ap­prov­al. The bill’s in­tent is to fill se­cur­ity gaps that oc­cur when bor­der-patrol agents are pulled from the bor­der to pro­cess un­ac­com­pan­ied minors at­tempt­ing to enter the U.S. il­leg­ally, Sch­weikert said in an emailed state­ment.

MASS DE­PORT­A­TION. Out­side Con­gress, con­ser­vat­ive ra­dio talk-show host Laura In­gra­ham ad­voc­ates de­port­a­tion of en­tire fam­il­ies by the thou­sands. She raised this idea on con­ser­vat­ive com­ment­at­or Bill O’Re­illy’s show, but he called it a “dra­coni­an idea” that would des­troy the Re­pub­lic­an Party, en­sur­ing a win for Demo­crats in 2016.

EX­EC­UT­IVE AC­TION. Since Con­gress isn’t go­ing to pass le­gis­la­tion this elec­tion year, Pres­id­ent Obama an­nounced June 30 that he would go at re­form solo through ad­min­is­trat­ive ac­tion. He dir­ec­ted DHS and At­tor­ney Gen­er­al Eric Hold­er to move avail­able re­sources from the in­teri­or to the bor­der to ramp up se­cur­ity meas­ures and to identi­fy ad­di­tion­al ac­tions the pres­id­ent can leg­ally take on his own. Their re­port is due by the end of the sum­mer.

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