Deporting undocumented kids is right

Guest Editorial
With all the anger boiling out of the White House over Congress’ unwillingness to pass comprehensive immigration reform, you would be forgiven for missing a reform that appears tailor-made for fast agreement. And, perhaps, a fast resolution to the flood of Central American immigrants threatening to turn into a nationwide humanitarian and political crisis.

President Barack Obama wants to amend the law so undocumented immigrants from Honduras and Guatemala can be repatriated to their home countries quickly. Standing in the way of such quick action is a 2008 law requiring people from countries that do not border the United States to first go through a complex, lengthy hearing process.

The law was the product of a humane sentiment shared by Congress and former President George W. Bush’s administration that immigrants from countries hundreds or thousands of miles away should not be summarily dumped, hopelessly, in northern Mexico.

Human decency is at the heart of this proposal by the president, too. Families and children are being duped by criminal cartels into paying fortunes on the expectation that they will be welcomed into the United States.

Tens of thousands of children, mostly from Central American countries, are spilling across the U.S. border as a result. The president has called it “an urgent humanitarian crisis.” He couldn’t be more right.
Lacking fast action, it will only worsen.

The president and Congress need to set aside the bickering sideshow and act on this one thing upon which they agree. On Capitol Hill, Republicans have complained furiously that current policy is entrenching the immigrants, placing the children with families in the United States. They demand that the administration shortcut policy and send the immigrants home.

Meanwhile, Vice President Joe Biden basically agreed when he said, in Guatemala, that “it will not be open arms” for immigrants: “We’re going to send the vast majority of you back.”

Biden’s tough talk is mostly rhetoric. Central American kids are still piling on top of the “death trains” heading north. They’ve seen no one sent back.

Common decency demands that Congress and the president stem this cartel-spawned human tide before it gets out of anyone’s control. Changing the law supports Biden’s vow and undercuts the cartels’ promises. It could keep tens of thousands from risking the uncertain journey.

As long as safeguards remain for those who truly are fleeing violence and persecution, it is the humane response.

Something about immigration policy seems to drive both the White House and Congress into irrational fits.
House Republicans have made a cynical, short-term calculation to resist all immigration reforms to avoid nasty infighting that might spoil their opportunities in the coming elections. That is pure politics.

For all his vituperations and invectives directed at Republicans, Obama has done his bit to exacerbate the border crisis too.

His alleged “all-time record” for deportations is largely the result of a 2011 decision to start counting arrests at the border as deportations. Arrests in the U.S. interior by Immigration and Customs Enforcement since then have dropped precipitously.

If nothing else, those policies have bolstered the cartels’ marketing campaign to Honduran and Guatemalan teens, advertising that once you’re in, you’re in.

The president has real grievances with Republicans, but he must stop playing both sides of the fence. An deal to reform the law that will allow the Central Americans to be repatriated quickly will be a good step toward firming up his position. It will be an even stronger step toward heading off a crisis involving tens of thousands of children with nowhere to turn.