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Updated by Media Excerpts on Jul 12, 2015
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Issues - Immigration - Border-Crisis

[7/19/14] Obama aides were warned of brewing border crisis

(Washington Post) -- In a 41-page report to the Department of Homeland Security (The University of Texas at El Paso - Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC) Project, March 20, 2014), the team from the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) raised alarms about the federal government’s capacity to manage a situation that was expected to grow worse.

The researchers’ observations were among the warning signs conveyed to the Obama administration over the past two years as a surge of Central American minors has crossed into south Texas illegally.

The administration did too little to heed those warnings, according to interviews with former government officials, outside experts and immigrant advocates, leading to an inadequate response that contributed to this summer’s escalating crisis. The research, conducted last year, was funded by the Department of Homeland Security and published in March.

Top officials at the White House and the State Department had been warned repeatedly of the potential for a further explosion in the number of migrant children since the crisis began escalating two years ago

according to former federal officials and others familiar with internal discussions. The White House was directly involved in efforts in early 2012 to care for the children when it helped negotiate a temporary shelter at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio. The former official said the agencies primarily in charge of border security, Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, were “ringing alarm bells” within the administration.

Meanwhile, top officials focused much of their attention on political battles, such as Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign and the push to win congressional support for a broad immigration overhaul, that would have been made more difficult with the addition of a high-profile border crisis.

[7/17/14] Report: Misinformation is a key factor in undocumented immigration surge

(El Paso Times) -- Erroneous information spread by smugglers and Spanish-language media about U.S. immigration policy — and not necessarily violence — is causing the surge of illegal immigration from Central America, according to an El Paso Intelligence Center report (EPIC Intelligence Assessment: Misperceptions of U.S. Policy Key Driver in Central American Migrant Surge, July 7, 2014) made public this month.

The report shoots down arguments by immigration activists who say thousands of women and children are fleeing to the U.S. to escape uncontrolled violence ... The report also says that Spanish news programs such as Univision's "Primer Impacto," Telemundo's "Al Rojo Vivo" and Central American media have shaped perception that U.S. immigration policy currently gives children permission to enter and stay in the U.S.

Operating under the Drug Enforcement Administration, the El Paso Intelligence Center is a multiagency intelligence center that collects information on drug and criminal activity. The report said that misconception in Central America about immigration policy is fueled by "human smugglers and Central American media — providing deliberate, errant or unwitting reporting to migrants on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) memorandum and comprehensive U.S. immigration reform."

[7/10/14] Don't Blame the Border Crisis on a 'Bush-era' Law

(National Review) -- President Obama’s hands are not tied by it, even as he claims otherwise. The surge of Central American families and unaccompanied children into south Texas has focused public attention on one of the few recent revisions of immigration law, the 2008 Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, or TVPRA, also known as the Wilberforce Act.

President Obama and his allies have sought to deflect the blame on to this “Bush-era” law, claiming that it has tied their hands. They maintain that because of the law, we have no choice but to take in the kids, reunite them with their families, provide them with lawyers to help them make a claim for legal status, and provide health care and other services while they await a decision.

The Wilberforce Act (WWTVPR) was aimed at protecting children who were victims of “severe” forms of human trafficking. Many of the kids in this surge were not trafficked at all, but crossed with their parents and are considered part of a family unit.

Department of Homeland Security officials have said that between October and June the Border Patrol had apprehended 39,000 adults traveling with an unspecified number of children.

Most of the children who arrive unaccompanied are smuggled, not trafficked: “Unaccompanied children are typically smuggled to the United States by human smuggling networks through established routes . . . the fees for which are most likely paid for by [their] family members residing in the United States.”

*The same ICE report reveals that about 43 percent of the unaccompanied minors are reunited with a parent soon after arriving in the United States. *Under the law, an unaccompanied child is defined as one who is under the age of 18 and without a parent or legal guardian in the United States to care for him.

It’s interesting how Mr. Obama and his team feel so constrained by the law in this instance, when they have found so many clever ways to exercise discretion in implementing other parts of the immigration law. Lawmakers should recognize that once again it is the president’s interpretation of the law that is the problem, not the law itself.

[7/10/14] What to know: '08 immigration law

(Politico) -- The law in question is the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, signed into law by former President George W. Bush in December 2008 in one of the last bills he signed before leaving office. At the time, the measure was extremely uncontroversial — it passed the House by a voice vote and was approved with unanimous consent in the Senate.

According to a 2008 Department of Homeland Security release, the legislation was designed to provide greater protection “for vulnerable populations, particularly women and children” who come to the U.S. border as undocumented individuals. The law mandated that all unaccompanied and undocumented children arriving at the border from outside North America be turned over within 72 hours to the Department of Health and Human Services. HHS officials, in addition to providing care and housing, would work to provide the children with legal counsel to find ways to reunite them with their families or find temporary asylum in the U.S.

[7/7/14] Why We Don't Immediately Send the Border Kids Back

(National Journal) -- This bill is necessary," Sen. Dianne Feinstein said on the Senate floor in 2008, "because every year, more than 7,000 undocumented and unaccompanied children are apprehended in the United States or at our borders."

"We weren't necessarily giving new immigration status to anyone," David Abramowitz, former chief counsel for the House Foreign Affairs Committee who helped craft the legislation, says now. "We were just trying to provide mechanisms to protect children to ensure they were handled properly when they were in the United States."

The system was thus slowed down, so the minors wouldn't be sent immediately back into dangerous situations. It was out of precaution. "We knew that not all these kids were trafficked," Abramowitz says. "We wanted to prevent them from being trafficked once they got here and protect them from exploitation."

Former Rep. Howard Berman (Democrat), the sponsor of that 2008 measure, said he and the other authors of the law didn't foresee the current situation. "Obviously this particular result was not anticipated," Berman said.

"I think the system was built with this six-, seven-, eight-thousand number in mind," Abramowitz says. "Remember, this bill went through a bunch of ups and down but at the end of the day passed by unanimous consent in the House of Representatives, which is very unusual for this major piece of legislation. And passed by unanimous consent by the Senate all within a 24-hour period.

[7/7/14] Immigrant Surge Rooted in Law to Curb Child Trafficking

(NYT) -- Originally pushed by a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers as well as by evangelical groups to combat sex trafficking, the bill gave substantial new protections to children entering the country alone who were not from Mexico or Canada by prohibiting them from being quickly sent back to their country of origin.

Instead, it required that they be given an opportunity to appear at an immigration hearing and consult with an advocate, and it recommended that they have access to counsel. It also required that they be turned over to the care of the Department of Health and Human Services, and the agency was directed to place the minor “in the least restrictive setting that is in the best interest of the child” and to explore reuniting those children with family members.

*The Obama administration says the law is partly responsible for tying its hands in dealing with the current influx of children. *

About 52,000 minors without their parents have been caught at the Southwest border since October.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who helped write the measure, said the White House does not need new power to act. “That law already provides the administration with flexibility to accelerate the judicial process in times of crisis,” she said. “The administration should use that flexibility to speed up the system while still treating these children humanely, with compassion and respect