Memo to GOP: Let Obama own immigration mess on our border

Give him the money! Republicans in Congress need to stifle their hostility towards President Obama, and approve his emergency request for funds to alleviate our border disaster. Only by signing on for the $3.7 billion “fix” will the GOP place this “urgent humanitarian crisis” squarely in Mr. Obama’s lap, where it belongs.

As House Speaker John Boehner recently said, Obama has been president for five and a half years; it’s time he took responsibility for something, and this border mess is a good place to start.

The flood of young unaccompanied minors across our border is a catastrophe – for the children and for the country. There’s no place to put them, no way to process all of them, we have legal impediments to deporting them; really, nobody knows what to do. President Obama has a plan -- let’s see if it works. Instead of allowing him to shirk responsibility by refusing to go along with his program, Congress needs to quickly climb aboard. Let him own the fruits of his labors.


Make no mistake, President Obama is to blame for the immigration fiasco. Despite front-page articles in the New York Times and elsewhere blaming a 2008 sex trafficking bill or rampant gang violence in Central America for the crush of illegal youngsters flooding our border, it is clear that the trigger for the sudden influx was President Obama’s campaign-motivated Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program (DACA), aka the “Dream Act.”

So far this fiscal year there have been more than 52,000 children unaccompanied children taken into custody, mostly from Central America;  that’s nearly twice the total from last year and 10 times the number from 2009.

For the record, countries like El Salvador and Honduras have long been violent. Since the mid- 1990s those two countries have ranked in the top ten most violent countries in the world. What’s changed is the perceived likelihood of these kids being allowed to stay in the U.S.

In passing the DACA, Obama said "it makes no sense to expel talented young people who are, for all intents and purposes, Americans."

This message trickled south -- the U.S. president was easing up on deportations of children who had grown up in the States. Parents took this as an invitation and began to ship their kids north.

As Homeland Security head Jeh Johnson told NBC, "The criminal smuggling organizations are putting out a lot of disinformation about supposed free passes." Right -- disinformation coming directly from the White House.

In a recent trip to Central America, during which he tried to turn around the escalating problem, Vice President Joe Biden went to the heart of the matter:  "Children and adults arriving with their children [in the U.S.] are not eligible to benefit from the passage of immigration reform legislation or from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals process.”

In campaigning for the Hispanic vote in 2012, and especially in politically crucial Nevada, Colorado and Florida, Obama pulled out all stops.

His campaign outspent Romney’s on Spanish-language TV stations in those states by nearly two-to-one. Obama even filmed a commercial appealing to Latinos in their native tongue. But nothing had the impact of the DACA, President Obama’s personal Dream Act, which stifled rumblings about the Obama administration’s record-setting deportations.

Weeks before the election, the New York Times wrote, “Mr. Obama’s strong position [with Hispanics] is in no small part due to his signing of an executive order giving temporary legal status to many illegal immigrants who entered the country as children.”

Initiating the DACA was brilliant; Hispanic voters rejoiced that their children could live without fear of deportation, and have a shot at legal status. They turned out in droves to vote, favoring Mr. Obama over GOP candidate Mitt Romney by 71% to 27%.

Unfortunately, Obama’s Dream Act was also broadcast south of the border, luring families into making what turns out to be a well calculated bet; most of the children apprehended at the border will remain in the U.S.

An overwhelmed court system and indifferent enforcement means that few will be deported; they may be lost in the shadows, but they will not likely have to go home. And, judging from the mood of the country, if they grow up, and graduate from high school, chances are they will eventually be offered a path to legal status. It’s a million-dollar gamble, which tens of thousands of families are eager to make.

Republicans should not stand in the way of President Obama’s plan to solve this border crisis. The country is alarmed; it wants a solution. Like it or not (and it’s not how I would like to see my tax dollars spent), we do need more judges to handle the overflow of cases and more money will need to be spent on border security.

Politically, the GOP will lose by being obstructionist. As important, they will win by letting the president spend $1.8 billion on new detention centers.

How will that sit with the Hispanic voter?

Also, let’s see how President Obama deals with Democrats alarmed about his proposals to speed deportations of the children. Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy has said he will fight “tooth and nail” any changes in the laws prohibiting returning minors to Central America.Others, like Sen. Richard Durbin, have also expressed reservations.

Maybe, after all, it’s not just Republicans who hinder our activist president. Maybe President Obama just isn’t very good at working with Congress.