White House officials said Monday that they are treating a wave of youthful illegal immigrants as a “humanitarian situation” that requires billions of dollars in aid for shelter, nutrition, health care and education.
Officials are not treating the expected influx of 60,000 youths this year — and perhaps 130,000 in 2015 — as a wave of illegal immigrants that should be returned home.
Instead, officials are spending taxpayer funds, and converting parts of at least two military facilities, to cater to the illegals and to transport them to their illegal-immigrant parents elsewhere in the United States.
“In general, significant numbers do have family members in the United States” who can pick up their kids from the federal facilities, said Cecilia Munoz, President Barack Obama’s top domestic adviser.
Officials expect the inflow to reach 130,000 in 2015, up more than 20-fold from the 2011 influx of 6,000 youths.
The fast-growing influx creates a political opportunities and risks for GOP leaders and for progressives.
If GOP leaders say that the influx is being spurred by Obama’s public support for illegal immigrants and amnesty, then progressives can argue that GOP politicians are heartless enemies of Latinos in the months before the critical November election.
But if GOP leaders don’t protest the flood, then Obama can use his support for the illegals to build emotional support among Latinos, regardless of mass immigration’s harmful impact on American job seekers and recent low-wage immigrants.
A recent poll of 1,354 adults by Associated Press-GfK polling showed that 84 percent of Americans say illegal immigration is a serious problem — including 53 percent who say it is very or extremely serious — while only 13 percent say it is “not too serious,” or not serious at all.
So Obama’s effective support for this new wave of illegal immigrants may not play well with swing voters more opposed the Senate’s 2013 immigration bill. If made law, the Senate’s bill would double the annual inflow of legal immigrants and guest workers — to roughly four million per year for the next 10 years. That annual inflow would be roughly equal to the numbers of American youths who turn 18 each year.
Rep. Bob Goodlatte, the GOP chairman of the House judiciary panel, has taken a cautious line so far. “The recent surge of children and teenagers from Central America showing up at our Southern border is an Administration-made disaster,” he said in a June 2 statement.
“Word has gotten out around the world about President Obama’s lax immigration enforcement policies and it has encouraged more individuals to come to the United States illegally. … Enforcement at the border and in the interior of the U.S. is crucial to end these kinds of situations, not another bureaucratic task force,” he said.
“Illegal border crossing is extremely dangerous and many of these children encounter drug and human traffickers along the way. … The House Judiciary Committee intends to hold a hearing on this troubling issue in the coming weeks,” said his statement.
White House officials have asked Congress to approve $1.4 billion to care for the youth and to help them get to their destinations in the United States.
In the June 2 phone call with reporters, Obama’s deputies made clear their focus is the welfare of the young illegal immigrants, not of Americans.
“Our primary mission is to ensure the [youth] are properly cared for,” said Munoz, who formerly headed an ethnic advocacy group for Latinos, the National Council of La Raza.
Many of the youth come from countries that do not have a border with the United States, so “the law doesn’t provide for expedited removal of these kids,” she said.
Officials told reporters on June 2 they would try to warn other children not to journey north to the United States, and would seek to counter the underlying causes.
But they did not promise any major announcement that would deter the youths from undertaking the dangerous trip. Instead, they said they would work with incompetent governments in Central America to warn would-be immigrants about the dangers.
Munoz dismissed evidence that the wave of illegal immigration is being caused by Obama’s support for amnesties for illegal-immigrant youths.
In June 2012, he used his White House power over immigration enforcement agencies to provide work permits and residency cards to 550,000 illegal immigrant youths, despite the repeated refusal of Congress to approve such measures.
Officials have heard of “rumors and reports and suggestions” that the flood may be caused by Obama’s policies, Munoz said.
But she denied the evidence.
“What’s driving this is what’s happening in their home counties, in particular, violence and fear and poor economic conditions,” she said.
However, she also admitted that the influx is caused by “the desire to be reunited with parents in the U.S.”
She said the administration is not yet making plans to allow the young illegals to stay, as it allowed 550,000 to stay under the June 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals mini-amnesty.
“We are focused right now, really, only on making sure we properly address the needs of these kids” as a humanitarian situation, she said.