Biden Fails to Move Central American Leaders on Border Crisis
June 21, 2014 - 9:34 am
The Obama administration sent Vice President Joe Biden to Guatemala City to talk with Central American leaders about the crisis of unaccompanied children who are flooding across the US border from Mexico.
Instead of pledging support to rein in the exodus of children from their countries, Biden got something of a lecture about “migrant rights” and schemes to keep the illegals from returning to their home countries.
Even members of the Hispanic Caucus were frustrated with the Central American leaders, getting an earful about how we should be reuniting the illegal children with their illegal parents — in the United States.
While there is no doubt that statements from the White House about ICE going easy on illegal children are largely responsible for the tidal wave of minors coming across the border — 60,000 this year and more than 120,000 expected next year — the inaction, if not active encouragement, from Central American governments is also to blame. Now that the situation has become an humanitarian crisis that continues to grow, the region’s leaders have demonstrated a total cluelessness about the American government’s position and insist on telling the US to take care of the problem inside its own borders.
Senator Robert Menendez and Democratic Representative Luis Gutierrez said U.S. lawmakers in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus on Wednesday held a “very testy meeting” with diplomats from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico.
“I proposed to the Vice President the possibility of considering temporary work programs, which would allow (Guatemalans) to go for a time and return,” Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina said on Friday after meeting Biden, along with other Central American leaders, in Guatemala City.
U.S. data show that between October and May more than 47,000 unaccompanied minors, mostly Central Americans, crossed into the United States, nearly double the number in the prior year.
“As long as (U.S.) immigration reform is not approved, the exodus of children to the United States will continue,” Jorge Ramon Hernandez, the senior representative of Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez, said at the talks.
A partisan divide in the United States has stymied Obama’s efforts to reform immigration laws.
Insisting the immigrant children should be returned to their parents, Biden also said “immigration reform has not died”.
El Salvador’s President Salvador Sanchez Ceren said this week he would press Biden for a reform to help reunite existing family members in the United States with more recent arrivals.
After Friday’s talks, Sanchez said he intended to keep working for the rights of the affected children.
“Each and every one of our countries has an obligation to guarantee the rights of children and adolescents,” he said.
What “rights” is he talking about? No doubt they consider reuniting families in the United States who are here illegally a “right” of the border jumpers.
For the administration to say that the recent arrivals will be sent home, they are going to need a lot of cooperation from Central American countries to achieve it. Judging from the attitude of Central American leaders at the meetings in Guatemala City, that cooperation does not appear to be imminent.
Indeed, it looks as if Central American countries will fight to keep the children in the US — a prospect that has Congress up in arms over the cost of caring and eventually repatriating the children.
“This is a problem of immense enormity and terrible hurt,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers on Wednesday evening as his panel took the first steps toward approving a $39.2 billion budget for the Department of Homeland Security. And the Kentucky Republican chastised the White House for showing “no leadership at all” in its budget for the coming year.
Indeed, President Barack Obama surprised many by asking for no increase in UAC funding in his March plan for new 2015 fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. Frustrated Democrats accuse the White House of lowballing the costs to make room for the president’s initiatives under the strict spending caps negotiated last December for 2015.
Having been caught short last winter, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) demanded a white paper from the administration on the crisis and forced an April 22 meeting of top staff from the White House budget office and four major line departments: State, Justice, Homeland Security and Health and Human Services.
It was then that the administration acknowledged that the flow of migrant children could double again next year to 127,000 and the costs for HHS may approach $2 billion — twice the $868 million in the president’s UAC request.
No budget amendment has yet followed.
“A $1.1 billion gap that needs to be addressed based on the tremendous humanitarian need,” said Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) at a May Senate hearing — weeks after the April meeting. In the same forum, Mikulski, a former social worker, didn’t hide her exasperation with HHS witnesses.
“We don’t want to warehouse them. We try to put them in foster care,” she said of the children. “Our failure to appropriate could exacerbate the humanitarian crisis. I need numbers.”
“Tell me what you need, and don’t stick us with the bill at the end. I feel you are not telling me what you need. I really don’t feel that HHS is telling me what you need.”
Even liberal Mikulski is disgusted with White House tactics. They hid the growing crisis from Congress for as long as they could, have shown no leadership in telling Congress how much they need to deal with the problem, and then ended up lowballing the costs anyway to game the budget process in order to allow other Obama pet projects to get funded.
Mikulski’s idea to provide foster care for the children is ludicrous. We don’t have the funding or willing foster parents to take care of American children. And now she wants to dump 60,000 kids on an already broken system? Spoken like a true social worker.
The problem isn’t “poverty and violence” in Central America. I’m sure it’s horrible, but there has been violence and poverty in those countries for a long time. There’s no getting around the fact that the administration has encouraged this invasion by hinting that children would be allowed to stay if they came here. Even if they didn’t specifically say that, authorities in Central America strongly hinted at it themselves.
There’s plenty of blame to spread around for the situation on our borders, and not much in the way of accepting responsibility to solve the crisis.