Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) said the flood of illegal immigrants that have recently overwhelmed the Border Patrol, including more than 48,000 children traveling on their own, should not drive critics “to try to use this an excuse not to do comprehensive immigration reform.”
“What is driving the children to the border is violence, the cartels and drugs. That’s what’s driving the children to our borders of the United States,” Gutierrez told MSNBC this morning.
The state of Arizona had to step in after the Border Patrol was keeping some 700 children in a holding center without proper sanitation or sleeping facilities.
Gutierrez stressed that the United Nations last month named Honduras the murder capital of the world, followed by El Salvador and Guatemala. “And those are the three countries from which 80 percent of the children [come],” he said. “It used to be that they were 16, 17 and 18-year-old children. Now you have 10 and 11. Used to be they were mostly male. Some of them are girls, little girls that are coming to our border. And so I think we need to have a regional approach.”
He added that immigration-reform opponents are “opportunistically looking” at the crisis.
“And what we should say is, ‘It’s our problem in our borders.’ We put money in resettlement camps in Africa and throughout the world because we see the humanitarian crisis. We should look at this — these are children,” the congressman continued. “First of all, we should depoliticize it from the immigration debate… A small portion of them are being reunited. We can take care of that by doing immigration reform.”
“The insatiable appetite that America has for drugs is causing much of the civil unrest — not unrest, I mean, the — I mean, there is no civil society.”
Gutierrez, a constant in the House group trying to forge a bipartisan immigration reform compromise, will accompany Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson when he flies out this week to view the situation.