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Charles Krauthammer: Immigrant kids shouldn’t be allowed to stay

  • Washington Post
  • Published Saturday, July 12, 2014, at 12 a.m.

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As is his wont, President Obama is treating the border crisis – more than 50,000 unaccompanied children crossing illegally – as a public relations problem. Where to photo op and where not.

Will these immigrants be allowed to stay? Seven times was Obama’s homeland security secretary asked this on “Meet the Press.” Seven times he danced around the question.

Presidential press secretary Josh Earnest was ostensibly more forthcoming: “It’s unlikely that most of those kids will qualify for humanitarian relief.… They will be sent back.” This was characterized in the media as a harder line. Not at all. Yes, those kids who go through the process will likely have no grounds to stay. But most will never go through the process.

These kids are being flown or bused to family members around the country and told to then show up for deportation hearings. Why show up? Why not just stay where they’ll get superior schooling, superior health care, superior everything? As a result, only 3 percent are being repatriated, to cite an internal Border Patrol memo.

Repatriate them? How stone-hearted, you say. After what they’ve been through? To those dismal conditions back home?

By that standard, with a sea of endemic suffering on every continent, we should have no immigration laws. Deny entry to no needy person.

But we do. We must. We choose. And immediate deportation is exactly what happens to illegal immigrants, children or otherwise, from Mexico and Canada. By what moral logic should there be a Central American exception?

There is no logic. Just a quirk of the law – a 2008 law intended to deter sex trafficking. It mandates that Central American kids receive temporary relocation, extensive assistance and elaborate immigration/deportation proceedings, which many simply evade.

This leniency was designed for a small number of sex-trafficked youths. It was never intended for today’s mass migration aimed at establishing a family foothold in America.

Stopping this wave is not complicated. Obama should have Congress change the law, simply mandating that Central American kids get the same treatment as Mexican kids, i.e., be subject to immediate repatriation.

Then do so under the most humane conditions. Buses with every amenity. Kids accompanied by nurses and social workers and interpreters and everything they need on board. But going home.

One thing is certain. When the first convoys begin rolling from town to town across Central America, the influx will stop.

It happens that I support immigration reform. I support amnesty. I have since 2006. But only after we secure the border.

Which begins with completing the fencing along the Mexican frontier. Using 2009 Government Accountability Office estimates, that would have cost up to $6.6 billion. Obama will now spend more than half that sum to accommodate a mass migration that would have been prevented by just such a barrier.

But a fence is for the long term. For the immediate crisis, the answer is equally, blindingly clear: Eliminate the Central American exception and enforce the law.

It must happen. The nightmare will continue until it does. The only question is: How long until Obama is forced to do the obvious?

Charles Krauthammer is a columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group.

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