The children are coming, again.
Tens of thousands of children, none of whom will be joined by their parents, are expected to leave their homes in Central America this spring and summer. They are likely to swarm through Mexico before winding up at the southern door of the United States.
The Migration Policy Institute estimate of close to 40,000 children is about half the number of the kids who arrived at our nation’s border with Mexico last year. But still, 40,000 children is a substantial number. They would easily fill one of our nation’s smaller cities, towns or villages.
But they are only children, right? True. But they represent a tremendous burden on federal, state and local social services. More importantly, they will strain the ability of U.S. Customs and Border Protection to deal with the nation’s porous southern border through which hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants come into the U.S. Once here they vanish into an underground economy.
Arizona and Texas officials are bracing for the worst. California, on the other hand, is opening its arms to welcome those without green cards. Perhaps that is only appropriate for a state that uses the word “Eureka” — which comes from an ancient Greek word that means “I have found it” — as its motto.
Texas is likely to see most of the undocumented, unaccompanied children. State officials said 40,000 undocumented children without parents showed up at the Lone Star State’s border in 2014.
Gov. Greg Abbott (R-Texas) placed border security high on his agenda during his State of the State address in February.
“Our first and foremost obligation is to protect our citizens’ safety,” Abbott said. “We cannot be naive to the threat posed by drug cartels, transnational gangs, and human and drug smuggling operations.”
Abbott said the best way to begin protecting Texans would be to enforce the “rule of law,” as he called for doubling state spending on “securing the border.”
Abbott argued he and the Texas Legislature would have to do what Washington, Congress and the White House have been unwilling to accomplish.
“In Texas, we will not sit idly by while the president ignores the law and fails to secure the border,” Abbott added.
It has not been easy, and the debate is far from over. But the Texas Legislature is close to approving historically high spending for border security.
The Texas Senate has approved an $811 million package, tripling what was spent in 2014. The House package, although it is smaller, would increase the number of Texas Department of Public Safety Officers on the border.
HB 11 would also set up a new intelligence center to analyze border crime data and establish a corps of retired DPS employees who would volunteer to help patrol the border with Mexico.
Rep. Dennis Bonnen (R), the sponsor of the legislation, wrote on his Facebook page that HB 11 was “a stable, long-term strategy that will enhance our law enforcement at the border and throughout the state, while aggressively targeting border-related organized crime.”
“HB 11 eliminates the need for inefficient and expensive ‘starts’ and ‘stops’ of recent border surges by putting a smarter and more effective approach in place,” he added.
Now it will be up to House and Senate negotiators to come up with a final budget that will include a border security program, and send it to Gov. Abbott’s desk by June 1.
They disagree on the investment it will take to make Texas’ border with Mexico more secure. But House and Senate Republicans wholeheartedly agree millions more will need to be spent if only because the federal government has done such a miserable job of keeping their constituents safe.
“The Texas Legislature has taken a strong step forward toward regaining ground that was unnecessarily lost to transnational violent cartel activity,” Sen. Brandon Creighton (R) said. “As long as the federal government fails in this effort, Texas must stand ready to act to defend its border and its citizens.”
Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) said the Senate budget would “vastly strengthen border security” by allowing the state to hire more Department of Public Safety troopers, add a new Texas Ranger company, provide additional technology and allow the Texas National Guard to continue patrolling the border.
Of course, Texas is not alone in its worries about protecting Americans at the border.
Sheriff Mark Dannels of Cochise County, Ariz., told the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee in March that many of his neighbors are afraid to leave their homes because the border is “dangerously insecure.”
California Democrats have also criticized federal inaction regarding illegal aliens.
However, they are not as worried about border security as their Republican counterparts in Arizona and Texas. They are more worried by a lack of immigration reform.
As a result again because of Washington’s inaction, California Democrats are pushing a 10-bill legislative package labeled “Immigrants Shape California.”
Rather than putting more guns at the border, they want to make it easier for those who come into California to assimilate into society.
Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins (D) said the proposals would “protect hardworking undocumented immigrants from fraud, discrimination, lack of healthcare, and the unintended consequences of our criminal justice system.”
Democrats in California see illegal aliens, or undocumented immigrants, as an economic opportunity rather than a danger, as their Republican counterparts do in Arizona and Texas.
An Immigrants Shape California Fact Sheet claimed “undocumented immigrants” comprise nearly 10 percent of the state’s workforce – contributing $130 billion annually to its gross domestic product – concentrated in agriculture, food services, construction, textile, and domestic services.
According to data from the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy, undocumented immigrants in California paid $2.2 billion in state and local taxes in 2010, including $1.8 billion in sales taxes, $152.1 million in state income taxes, and $302.8 million in property taxes.
The ITEP data also showed if illegal or undocumented immigrants were to obtain legal status in California, these revenues would increase to over $2.6 billion in state and local taxes, including $1.9 billion in sales taxes, $384.3 million in state income taxes, and $320.1 million in property taxes.
Atkins said, “With these bills California will again show the kind of practical, humane, and forward-thinking leadership that we hope can move the needle on the national discussion.”