AP: Illegal Alien Children Can Stay in US for Years

An investigation by the Associated Press into the situation on the border with tens of thousands of unaccompanied children flowing into the US finds that US immigration law has tied the hands of the government in trying to deport the minors and that they could conceivably stay in the US for years.

Welcome children! Sit right down and make yourselves at home.

Thousands of immigrant children fleeing poverty and violence in Central America to cross alone into the United States can live in American cities, attend public schools and possibly work here for years without consequences.

The chief reasons are an overburdened, deeply flawed system of immigration courts and a 2002 law intended to protect children's welfare, an Associated Press investigation finds.

Driving the dramatic increases in these immigrants is the recognition throughout Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador that children who make the dangerous trip can effectively remain in the U.S. for years before facing even a moderate risk of deportation.

The Obama administration estimates it will catch 90,000 children trying to illegally cross the Mexican border without their parents by the end of the current budget year in September. Last year, the government returned fewer than 2,000 children to their native countries.

The administration has asked Congress for $2 billion to spend on the issue.

"They almost never go home," said Gary Mead, who until last year was director of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office responsible for finding and removing immigrants living in the country. "It's not a process that ultimately ends in easy resolutions or clear-cut resolutions."

The situation is widely perceived as becoming a humanitarian crisis at the border. The system is now so overwhelmed that children are being housed in Border Patrol facilities ill-equipped to handle them.

The government has asked the military to open temporary shelters in Texas, Oklahoma and California.

U.S. officials, including the Homeland Security secretary, the White House domestic policy council director and the Customs and Border Protection commissioner have described immigrant families' concerns about education, jobs and personal safety as driving the rise in border crossings.

Only recently have officials acknowledged that perceptions that these children may be allowed to stay or that Congress soon may relax U.S. immigration laws — which is highly unlikely — may also be responsible.

Meanwhile, in a total PR move, the administration is promising a "surge" at the border:

The White House said it would send more judges and staffers to reduce the backlog of immigration cases but did not provide specific numbers about the amount of additional workers.

“We are surging government enforcement resources to increase our capacity to detain individuals and adults who bring their children with them and to handle immigration court hearings in cases where hearings are necessary – as quickly and efficiently as possible while also protecting those who are seeking asylum," the White House said. "That will allow [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement] to return unlawful migrants from Central America to their home countries more quickly."

Earlier Friday, Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, called on Obama to deploy the National Guard to the U.S.-Mexico border, but administration officials threw cold water on that suggestion.

“The policies of your administration have directly resulted in the belief by these immigrants that once they reach U.S. soil, they will be able to stay here indefinitely,” Boehner wrote in a letter to Obama.

Obama previously deferred deportations of Dream-Act eligible illegal immigrants, but the White House says that children now crossing the border illegally are not eligible for that program.

We are surging judges and lawyers at the border! What's next, accountants? Even with the increase in judges, they will hardly be able to keep ahead of the tidal wave. The administration is expecting double the number of kids crossing the border next year -- 120,000. By the time the judges are finished hearing those cases of people already here, some of those kids will be collecting Social Security -- illegally.

So how does this legal process work -- besides very badly?

Like Antunez and thousands of others, most spend about one month in the custody of the Office of Refugee and Resettlement under the Health and Human Services Department, before they are reunited with parents or other relatives in the United States. There is no requirement that their parents or those other relatives were legally allowed into the United States.

Why isn't there a requirement that their parents or relatives be here legally? What genius thought that one up?

When you have an immigration policy that encourages lawbreaking, this is what you end up with. The immigration reform package that everyone wants the Republicans to vote for will make matters even worse. The world is breaking down our door to get in and God knows who is coming with these desperate, poor people; terrorists, drug dealers, criminals in all shapes, sizes, and ages.

We are a sovereign country and are well within our rights to close our border to anyone who refuses to obey even the weak and ineffective laws already on the books. It is a fundamental right among nations to enforce our own laws even if the rest of the world doesn't like them.The president -- never letting a good crisis go to waste -- is using this terrible situation on the border to try and advance immigration reform. It's a despicable tactic and instead of trying to promote his agenda and putting on phony "surges" at the border, he should act like a president and take control of the situation.