How the U.S. Is Trying to Convince Central American Parents to Keep Their Kids Home

National Journal
Rachel Roubein
Add to Briefcase
Rachel Roubein
July 11, 2014, 1 a.m.

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.”

What We're Following See More »
CITES CONFLICT OF INTEREST
Lieberman Withdraws from Consideration for FBI Job
4 days ago
THE LATEST
MINIMUM 2 PERCENT GDP
Trump Tells NATO Countries To Pay Up
4 days ago
BREAKING
MANAFORT AND FLYNN
Russians Discussed Influencing Trump Through Aides
4 days ago
THE DETAILS

"American spies collected information last summer revealing that senior Russian intelligence and political officials were discussing how to exert influence over Donald J. Trump through his advisers." The conversations centered around Paul Manafort, who was campaign chairman at the time, and Michael Flynn, former national security adviser and then a close campaign surrogate. Both men have been tied heavily with Russia and Flynn is currently at the center of the FBI investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Source:
BUT WHITE HOUSE MAY USE AGAINST HIM ANYWAY
Ethics Cops Clear Mueller to Work on Trump Case
6 days ago
THE LATEST

"Former FBI Director Robert Mueller has been cleared by U.S. Department of Justice ethics experts to oversee an investigation into possible collusion between then-candidate Donald Trump's 2016 election campaign and Russia." Some had speculated that the White House would use "an ethics rule limiting government attorneys from investigating people their former law firm represented" to trip up Mueller's appointment. Jared Kushner is a client of Mueller's firm, WilmerHale. "Although Mueller has now been cleared by the Justice Department, the White House may still use his former law firm's connection to Manafort and Kushner to undermine the findings of his investigation, according to two sources close to the White House."

Source:
BUSINESSES CAN’T PLEAD FIFTH
Senate Intel to Subpoena Two of Flynn’s Businesses
6 days ago
THE LATEST

Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) and ranking member Mark Warner (D-VA) will subpoena two businesses owned by former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. Burr said, "We would like to hear from General Flynn. We'd like to see his documents. We'd like him to tell his story because he publicly said he had a story to tell."

×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login