Clueless Central American leaders get testy with immigration reform congressmen
Even immigration reform advocates got upset with leaders from several Central American countries when there were complaints about "migrant rights" being violated and several unrealistic proposals were offered to help deal with the crisis on America's southern border.
Vice President Biden was in the region to try to get Honduras, El Salvador and other countries to address the crisis. Instead, he got an earful from leaders about securing the rights of their nationals - even suggesting that some illegals should be allowed to work for a while then come home.
The White House said the United States would launch a $40 million program to improve security in Guatemala to reduce pressures fueling migration to the United States and a $25 million program to provide services to youth in El Salvador who are vulnerable to organized-crime pressure.
Responding to what President Barack Obama has called a humanitarian crisis, the U.S. Congress on Tuesday advanced legislation boosting funds by as much as $2.28 billion to handle a surge of foreign children entering the country illegally.
But underlying tensions continue to simmer.
Senator Robert Menendez and Democratic Representative Luis Gutierrez said U.S. lawmakers in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus on Wednesday held a "very testy meeting" with diplomats from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico.
"I proposed to the Vice President the possibility of considering temporary work programs, which would allow (Guatemalans) to go for a time and return," Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina said on Friday after meeting Biden, along with other Central American leaders, in Guatemala City.
U.S. data show that between October and May more than 47,000 unaccompanied minors, mostly Central Americans, crossed into the United States, nearly double the number in the prior year.
"As long as (U.S.) immigration reform is not approved, the exodus of children to the United States will continue," Jorge Ramon Hernandez, the senior representative of Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez, said at the talks.
A partisan divide in the United States has stymied Obama's efforts to reform immigration laws.
Insisting the immigrant children should be returned to their parents, Biden also said "immigration reform has not died".
El Salvador's President Salvador Sanchez Ceren said this week he would press Biden for a reform to help reunite existing family members in the United States with more recent arrivals.
After Friday's talks, Sanchez said he intended to keep working for the rights of the affected children.
"Each and every one of our countries has an obligation to guarantee the rights of children and adolescents," he said.
It's not violence and poverty driving these kids to take the enormous risks in traveling to the US border. There has been violence and poverty for years in those countries, so you have to ask yourself, why the flood now?
The prospect of immigration reform and statements from the administration - some of them widely disseminated in Central American countries - have encouraged this flood of children. The illegals say it, the Central American diplomats say it, the politicians in the region repeat it - there's no doubt what the reason is for this crisis.
To not understand the effects of his statements on partial amnesty for children may be the most irresponsible thing this administration has ever done. Whether you believe Obama did it deliberately or not is beside the question. The issue is the lack of foresight and the stupidity in failing to recognize the danger.
We are about to spend $2.2 billion we don't have on a crisis that shouldn't have happened. And people on both sides of the border are suffering because of it.