Immigration advocates are increasingly worried that President Barack Obama really does want to narrow immigration loopholes that are attracting a growing number of low-skilled immigrants from Central America.
Obama’s “view of what’s happening at the border is that it is getting out of hand,” said Frank Sharry, the director of a pro-immigration group, America’s Voice.
“The priority for the White House is to send a strong deterrence message to Central America by sending people back… [and] I fear this will short-circuit justice and not protect vulnerable children” who want to live in the United States, said a June 30 statement from Rep. Luis Gutiérrez, the most assertive voice for increased immigration in the House.
Officials expect 200,000 adults, youths and children from Central America to cross the border illegally between October 2013 and October 2014. That’s sharply up from previous years.
The young illegals are labelled “Dreamers” by ethnic advocates.
Sharry and several other immigration advocates met with Obama June 30 in the White House. They asked him to let migrants ask judges for the right to stay in the United States.
“That was a part of the meeting that was quite spirited [and] contentious,” Sharry said.
Obama was “resolute in stating the case that his job was to enforce our laws at the border and to make sure the [new legal] flexibility that [he] would ask [Congress] for could be used in a situation that was getting out of hand,” Sharry said.
On June 30, Obama asked Congress for $2 billion to fund border security operations and to care for illegal immigrants as they cross the border.
But he also asked for legal changes. Those changes could allow officials to quickly send Central American migrants home, and also deny them the legal authorization to ask a deportation judge for the right to stay.
“I am writing to update you on my administration’s efforts to address the urgent humanitarian situation in the Río Grande Valley areas of our Nation’s Southwest border, and to request that the Congress [provide] the [Department of Homeland Security] Secretary additional authority to exercise discretion in processing the return and removal of unaccompanied minor children from non-contiguous countries like Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador,” said the letter.
Current law allows migrants from countries that don’t share a border with the United States to stay in the United States while they go through multi-year court deportation process. The process is very valuable for the migrants, because it allows many to seek and win residency.
That legal option is said to be encouraging the growing wave of border-crossers, which is expected to grow above 200,000 in the 12 months after October.
Migrants from Mexico don’t have access to the courts, and are usually sent home very quickly.
Advocates for the immigrants want more migrants to win residency.
“We should treat this refugee crisis the way we address refugee crises elsewhere in the world, by setting up quick but fair mechanisms to evaluate the refugee status of migrants – especially children — fleeing violence in Central America,” Gutierrez said.
But Obama is pushing for legal changes because he is “determined to get a handle on what is happening, so kids would not risk their lives, and so that we would not have 100,000 a year showing up the border,” said Sharry.
“That was a moment of tremendous tension and disagreement in the room,” Sharry added.