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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Presidential material

As many of his fellow Republicans seem content to merely whine about President Obama’s handling of illegal immigration, Texas Governor Rick Perry decided to show the country that he’s a man of action. Unfortunately, his bold plan went down in flames almost as soon as he said it out loud.

During a lengthy testimony at a U.S. House field hearing on immigration, Perry suggested the president mobilize the National Guard to secure the border. The plan could certainly help Perry’s cred as “tough on illegal immigration” (especially if the rumors of Perry 2016 are true), but it took people about five seconds to recognize it as completely useless.

The struggle over how best to stop undocumented people from entering the country illegally was recently complicated further by the fact that tens of thousands of them are unaccompanied children. 

These children have overwhelmed regional immigration detainment centers and the question of what to do with them has no good answer. Most of the children come from nations thousands of miles away from the U.S. border and therefore just just sending them back to Mexico as Sarah Palin once suggested isn’t an option.

It’s also not a matter of simply turning the kids away at the border. Ironically, it was former President Bush which signed into law the Homeland Security Act of 2002, which requires that any unaccompanied minor who isn’t from Mexico caught at the border be taken into custody and transferred to the Office of Refugee Resettlement. 

They are then either sent to a suitable relative or put into long-term foster care. In other words, they stay in the United States and now that there are a lot of them – fleeing drug wars and hunger – Republicans don’t like that compassionate law any more.

Perry felt that in order to stop the thousands of children showing up at the nation’s doorstep, a military intervention was the only way and he wanted the federal government to pay for it. He told the hearing that he wants at least 1,000 Texas National Guard troops and other resources as the first step towards stemming the flow of kids.

Thankfully, U.S. Rep. Filmon Vela (D-TX) was there to bring some sense to Perry’s blustering. He asked Perry how exactly the governor felt that bringing troops into the matter would stop kids from showing up at border. After all, the kids weren’t trying to evade law enforcement. 

This wasn’t a cat-and-mouse game, these were desperate children heading towards what they had been told was a safe place. After crossing the Rio Grande, most children simply walked directly up to the nearest immigration agent and turned themselves in. How would 1,000 soldiers make any difference?

After a pause, Perry responded with his memorized talking point, which incidently didn’t answer the question:
“The power of boots on the ground cannot be overstated,” Perry answered. “The message needs to be not, ‘If you come into the United States, you’ll be deported,’ but, ‘You won’t enter the United States.’”
Again, children who are caught along the border can’t be deported as per a law Republican president George W. Bush signed over a decade ago.

Sensing he was losing his footing, Perry then pivoted into a wide-ranging complaint about drug smugglers, neighborhood watches, and the absolute assurance that if he had things his way these kids wouldn’t be showing up here in the first place.

By now the entire hearing could see the blood in the water. Rep. Eric Stalwell (D-CA) was the next to pounce.
“During our briefing this morning, we were told that this is not a matter of catching them,” Swalwell said. “These children are running into open arms, so wouldn’t additional border patrol agents only increase the number of open arms that these children are running into?”
Again Perry defaults to the only talking point he seemed to have taken with him to the hearing and insisted that the National Guard is the number one priority. “I think I addressed that earlier when I said that when you have the National Guard, when you have a law enforcement effort,” Perry answered before turning the accusatory finger onto Mexico for not securing itssouthern border.

So, if we had only elected President Rick Perry in 2012 we could be enjoying a utopia wherein platoons of national guardsmen and women rove our southern border protecting us from child refugees; a law enacted a decade ago would simply cease to exist; and Mexico would be so terrified of the Texan in the White House that it would build a massive, impenetrable wall across their border to serve as a country-wide buffer zone between us and the nearest child who dares dream of safety within our nation. 

It’s just that simple.