Over the past few months we have witnessed an explosion of unaccompanied alien children crossing our Southern border. These children are arriving primarily from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. The President has proposed a 3.7 billion dollar emergency authorization by Congress to address the border crisis. However, we can humanely repatriate these children home by reducing foreign aid we provide to the countries they are arriving from.
According to www.foreignassistance.gov, we provided the following amounts of foreign aid to the aforementioned countries in FY2013: 1) El Salvador - $27,438,00; 2) Guatemala - $83,898,00; 3) Honduras - $51,971,000. That is a total of $163,307,000. Senators Tom Coburn and Ron Johnson have both publicly stated that we can repatriate these children to their home countries on flights for approximately $20 million or less. Therefore, this is a solution that makes sense for several reasons.
First, the United States is not a country of infinite resources. As I write this, our national debt stands at an astounding 17.6 trillion dollars. We cannot continue raiding the piggy bank of hard-working American taxpayers. They have paid their fair share. The President’s request for 3.7 billion dollars is completely unnecessary. This is a measured, common sense solution that is in our country’s best financial interests.
Second, we must enlist El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to help solve the border crisis. Money talks. Reducing foreign aid to these countries will provide them with incentive to work with us on stemming the flow of unaccompanied alien children across our Southern border. While Republicans and Democrats can continue to agree to disagree on the root cause of the border crisis, we should be able to reach a consensus on the solution. That solution must involve cooperation from these countries.
Third, the border crisis presents serious public health concerns. For example, unaccompanied alien children are being integrated with American foster children at shelters according to the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). Some of these children “come from countries that don’t vaccinate for pneumonia or meningitis” noted ABC News’ chief Richard Besser Tuesday. The same ABC News article stated that sick children are being transported on airplanes to shelters. The reckless manner with which we are transporting unaccompanied alien children is unnecessarily putting American children in harm’s way. This is unacceptable.
According to briefings Congress has received from the Border Patrol and ICE, the tide of children crossing our Southern border shows no signs of slowing down. Approximately ten thousand unaccompanied alien children crossed our southern border in May and June. I feel compassion for these children, some of whom I recently visited at Fort Sill, Oklahoma last weekend. They have endured a painful journey to come to the United States. According to the Border Patrol, fifty percent have been sexually abused on their trek here.
Taking decisive action to address the border crisis is the most responsible and humane thing America can do. We need to deter Central American children from risking their livelihood to come to America based on the false hope that they will be allowed to stay. As Hillary Clinton conveyed to a CNN Town Hall last month: “We have to send a clear message. Just because your child gets across the border, that doesn’t mean the child gets to stay. So we don’t want to send a message that is contrary to our laws or will encourage more children to make that dangerous journey.”
Hillary Clinton and I do not agree on much. However, I believe that as women leaders we are uniquely positioned to understand what is in the best interests of this country and the unaccompanied children being drawn here. A fiscally responsible, bipartisan solution is achievable. Reduce foreign aid to repatriate these children to their Central American homeland and secure our border immediately.
Rep. Marsha Blackburn is a member of the U.S. House of Representatives serving the Seventh Congressional District of Tennessee. She serves as vice chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Chair of the Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives, and is a member of the House Budget Committee.