The Border Crisis: Why Is It Happening & Why Now? by Gary D. Halbert

by Gary D. Halbert

August 12, 2014


1.  Is US Immigration Policy to Blame for the Border Crisis?

2.  More Aid to the Northern Triangle is Not the Answer

3.  Border Security Doubled Last Decade, But Still Overwhelmed

4.  Sheltering Immigrants Invites Gangs Into US Communities

5.  Free Public Education for Illegal Immigrants

6.  Why the Border Crisis is Happening Now: A National ID Card?


The recent surge of tens of thousands of unaccompanied children to the United States from Central America has sparked an intense and emotional debate over the crisis on the US-Mexico border. Unlike illegal immigrants from Mexico that can be deported within 48 hours, illegals from “non-contiguous” countries must be provided a deportment hearing in a court of law.

As a result, these illegals must be detained and housed (and educated if they are minors) until they have their day in court. Our government is quietly shipping these illegal immigrants to cities across America, often with no advance notice to the local communities. Why is this happening?

The presidents of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala and some Democrats in the US are demanding more foreign aid for these countries, arguing that the border situation is a “refugee crisis” that is rooted in US neglect of Central America, which has led to rampant gang violence and corruption.  In other words, WE caused this problem. I don’t buy it!

Meanwhile, many Republicans say that the crisis is largely due to lenient US immigration policies that have led these illegal immigrants to believe that if they can get here, they can stay here. Many Democrats believe that these people are fleeing rampant violence in their home countries and that we should help them – along with a path to citizenship.

Yet there are many more questions than there are answers. Is our government directly responsible for this humanitarian crisis? How do these families in poverty in Central America scrape together thousands of dollars to pay the “coyotes” and send their young children into potentially grave danger? Why is this flood of immigrants and children happening now?

Finally, could the border crisis be a prelude to a National ID Card? Maybe it’s a preposterous question, but it needs to be asked. I will ask it today and explain why we need to be aware of this possibility. This should make for an interesting letter, whether you agree or not.

Is US Immigration Policy to Blame for the Border Crisis?

Answer: In part. On June 13, 2012 after the president’s “Dream Act” failed to pass in Congress, Obama issued an Executive Order – “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” (DACA). This order halted the deportation of some illegal immigrants who were brought to this country as children and have gone on to be productive law-abiding residents.

DACA is key among the policies that are creating a magnet for illegal immigrants. This unilateral policy that President Obama enacted allows many illegal immigrants who came to the US as children to avoid deportation. Among other criteria, they must have come to the US before they were 16 years old, must have been younger than 31 on June 15, 2012, have been in the country since at least June 15, 2007 and have no criminal history.

The Obama administration extended DACA in June, allowing more immigrants to apply for protection from deportation for another two years. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) recently said in a statement that the extension and changes would “proactively invite fraud and abuse.”

This unilateral action by the president in 2012 forced the emotional immigration policy debate into the forefront of the presidential campaign. Obama described his decision as the “right thing to do for the American people,” but many Democrats and immigration advocates also saw it as the right strategic move to boost his re-election chances.

The Border Crisis: Why Is It Happening & Why Now?

In any event, the crisis at the border is a result of a convergence of factors in addition to lax US immigration law. With DACA in place, coyotes who smuggle migrants across the border orchestrated a campaign of rumors regarding amnesty that intersected with increasing violence and hopelessness in Central America – this according to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Sensing a new opportunity as gang-fueled violence spread across Central America and the region’s governments foundered, the coyotes spread word that unaccompanied minors and mothers with children who came to the United States would be allowed to stay.

Many Republicans, and increasingly some Democrats, blame President Obama for encouraging this crisis with his 2012 Executive Order allowing some illegal immigrants who came to the country as children before 2007 to stay and work legally without the threat of deportation. This policy is not well understood in Central America and has been grossly mischaracterized by the coyotes and even the local media.

The coyotes’ promises resonated because corruption and the implosion of the rule of law in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala – the so-called “Northern Triangle” – have pushed many people past a psychological tipping point. Slim hope for a better future has given way to a profound belief that there is no future possible if their children stay.

Gangs and transnational criminal organizations control ever-larger swaths of territory in the region. They blow up buildings with C4 explosives and battle one another with assault rifles while the national governments retreat. Measured by homicide rates, the Northern Triangle countries are more dangerous than war zones such as Afghanistan or Iraq, Gaza or Ukraine. Less than 5% of the homicides in the region are prosecuted. Gang violence has grown especially brutal toward girls who are routinely gang-raped and forced into membership by the age of 11.

More Aid to the Northern Triangle is Not the Answer

Calls for more aid and increased foreign investment are unrealistic in light of the dysfunction of the Northern Triangle governments. The rule of law there has been replaced by transactional politics: Whoever pays the most gets the results they want. In many cases, the police, judiciary, executive branch and legislature are at the service of the highest bidder. In this environment, more money and aid would inevitably mean more corruption.

Government leaders in the region squandered the international aid and goodwill that existed after their countries’ civil wars ended in the early 1990s. Leaders pocketed hundreds of millions of dollars that could have been used to tackle violence, create jobs, strengthen institutions and otherwise avert the current crisis. For example, former Salvadoran president Antonio Saca (2004-2009) was expelled from his own party after an internal investigation found that he had stolen more than $219 million while in office.

Since 2008, the United States, through the Central America Regional Security Initiative, has provided the region with $649 million in aid. Yet by every measure – homicides, kidnappings, prison overcrowding and dysfunction of the courts – the situation has gotten much worse. Until there is genuine political will to change what is so badly broken, more money is not wise policy.

Border Security has Doubled in Last Decade, But Still

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