Border Patrol stations like the ones in Brownsville and Nogales, both in Arizona, were not meant for long-term custody. Immigrants are supposed to wait there until they are processed and taken to detention centers, but the surge in children arriving without their parents has overwhelmed the U.S. government.
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz is calling on the Department of Homeland Security to authorize Texas to secure the southwest border as a soaring influx of unaccompanied minors from Central America continues.
The senator, a Texas Republican, said in a pointed letter to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson that the influx of some 50,000 unaccompanied minors so far this year had reached a “crisis” level that required the state to take swift action to protect its portion of the border and not wait for the White House.
Cruz’s letter expressed frustration and blamed the Obama administration’s lax immigration policies as a factor in the child migration surge.
“The Obama Administration’s outright refusal to enforce the law is causing chaos for those of us who live and work in border states that must deal with the surge of immigrants who are illegally arriving each day,” Cruz said. “For decades now, Congress has mandated that the federal government secure the border, and yet the number of persons arriving illegally in the United States has grown from around 8.5 million in 2000 to around 11.5 million today.”
On Friday, House Speaker John Boehner sent a letter to President Barack Obama urging him to send National Guard troops to the southern border to help deal with the surge of unaccompanied minors from Central America. Boehner called the situation a "national security and humanitarian crisis" of Obama's making and said the president must act.
Boehner said National Guard troops could help ensure the safety of the children and their families. He also says the State Department should work with Central American nations to make sure their people know of the dangers of heading north.
But Cruz, and other Texas officials, said they do not want to wait for the White House to step in.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry and other state officials have directed the state Department of Public Safety to plan and implement a beefed-up police presence on the border.
"Texas can't afford to wait for Washington to act on this crisis and we will not sit idly by while the safety and security of our citizens are threatened," Gov. Perry said in a statement on his website. "Until the federal government recognizes the danger it's putting our citizens in by its inaction to secure the border, Texas law enforcement must do everything they can to keep our citizens and communities safe."
In his directive, Perry noted that the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol arrested more than 160,000 undocumented immigrants in the Rio Grande Valley in the first eight months of the current fiscal year (which runs from October 2013 to September 2014), a greater number than they arrested in all of the previous fiscal year.
And in Texas alone, Perry said, border agents have arrested 34,000 children this year.
The Border Patrol says the number of minors coming from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras has soared more than 1,000 percent. It's increasingly a political problem for the Obama administration.
Includes material from The Associated Press.