Perched on a rock, a boy wistfully stares at the bleak, sprawling wasteland before him.
It’s an image plastered on a poster to be spread around El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. There’s a message, written in the voice of a parent: “I thought it would be easy for my son to get his papers in the North. That wasn’t true,” it says in Spanish.
Lawmakers are trying to figure out just what exactly will stop parents from paying thousands of dollars to smuggle their children into the United States, escaping possible murder, rape, gang recruitment, and intensified violence in Central America’s Northern Triangle.
“I don’t think a mother in this country necessarily acts the same way as a mother in Honduras, Guatemala, or any other place, because their options are so limited,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said at a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing Thursday.
A number of proposals have been floated to grapple with just what exactly should be done — and what might work to stop the influx of unaccompanied children from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras from crossing the border illegally. But there’s one fact the White House and many Republicans and Democrats can agree on: Parents need to know they shouldn’t send their children on an illegal journey into the United States.
Two Arizona Republican senators announced Thursday that they plan to introduce legislation aimed at addressing the “humanitarian crisis” at the border.
And the bill, offered by Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake, will send a signal to parents: “The federal government will only stem the flow of unaccompanied minors to the United States when their parents see us sending them right back,” Flake said in a statement. “This legislation gives the administration the flexibility it has requested so it can begin to do just that.”
The senators aim to encourage parents in Central America to apply for refugee status in their home country and avoid sending their children on journeys into the U.S. through Mexico. The bill provides some incentive in the form of 5,000 additional refugee visas for each of the three countries.
Additionally, it calls for the expedited removal of all undocumented immigrants stopped at the border to be completed in a span of “hours or days,” drastically decreasing the current wait time of months to years, a press release states.
There’s also already a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign underway aimed at telling parents that sending children into the U.S. illegally is dangerous, and they shouldn’t expect legal papers to be issued upon their children’s arrival. U.S. Customs and Border Protection developed the campaign, and President Obama’s emergency supplemental funding request asks for an additional $5 million for the messaging.
But some lawmakers are skeptical that this will actually influence parents. Maybe witnessing planes return children home would work better, they say.
“Isn’t the most effective deterrent for young people leaving Central America coming to our country actually having the people in those countries — Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador — seeing those young people returned? Isn’t that the most effective deterrent versus an advertising campaign?” asked Sen. John Hoeven, R-North Dakota, during Thursday’s Senate Appropriations Committee hearing.
To which Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson replied: “I agree that they need to see people coming back — that they wasted their money.”
But there are also other ways to spread the word, Johnson said, like he did on a recent trip to Guatemala.
“It was a rather awkward moment, frankly, standing next to the president of that country, telling his citizens don’t come to our country because if you do, we will send you back, and it’s dangerous to do this,” he said. “But the public messaging is critical.”
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Just after President Obama finished his address to the DNC, Hillary Clinton walked out on stage to join him, so the better could share a few embraces, wave to the crowd—and let the cameras capture all the unity for posterity.
In a speech that began a bit like a State of the Union address, President Obama said the "country is stronger and more prosperous than it was" when he took office eight years ago. He then talked of battling Hillary Clinton for the nomination in 2008, and discovering her "unbelievable work ethic," before saying that no one—"not me, not Bill"—has ever been more qualified to be president. When his first mention of Donald Trump drew boos, he quickly admonished the crowd: "Don't boo. Vote." He then added that Trump is "not really a plans guy. Not really a facts guy, either."
Tim Kaine introduced himself to the nation tonight, devoting roughly the first half of his speech to his own story (peppered with a little of his fluent Spanish) before pivoting to Hillary Clinton—and her opponent. "Hillary Clinton has a passion for children and families," he said. "Donald Trump has a passion, too: himself." His most personal line came after noting that his son Nat just deployed with his Marine battalion. "I trust Hillary Clinton with our son's life," he said.
Michael Bloomberg said he wasn't appearing to endorse any party or agenda. He was merely there to support Hillary Clinton. "I don't believe that either party has a monopoly on good ideas or strong leadership," he said, before enumerating how he disagreed with both the GOP and his audience in Philadelphia. "Too many Republicans wrongly blame immigrants for our problems, and they stand in the way of action on climate change and gun violence," he said. "Meanwhile, many Democrats wrongly blame the private sector for our problems, and they stand in the way of action on education reform and deficit reduction." Calling Donald Trump a "dangerous demagogue," he said, "I'm a New Yorker, and a know a con when I see one."
Vice President Biden tonight called President Obama "one of the finest presidents we have ever had" before launching into a passionate defense of Hillary Clinton. "Everybody knows she's smart. Everybody knows she's tough. But I know what she's passionate about," he said. "There's only one person in this race who will help you. ... It's not just who she is; it's her life story." But he paused to train some fire on her opponent "That's not Donald Trump's story," he said. "His cynicism is unbounded. ... No major party nominee in the history of this country has ever known less."