By Jim Sensenbrenner
?Published on July 16, 2014
In recent weeks, we have seen an evolution of the Rahm Emanuel Doctrine. The Obama administration's policy to "never let a crisis go to waste" now includes "even if you have to manufacture that crisis yourself."
Last week, the president asked Congress to authorize $3.7 billion in emergency funding. Almost half — $1.8 billion — would be for shelter and other services for unaccompanied alien children (UACs) who illegally crossed our southern border, largely from Central America.
This has become a legitimate crisis — one with humanitarian, national security and financial consequences.
The crisis, however, is of the president's own making. During the past six years, the administration has bypassed Congress and implemented policies that have encouraged individuals to break the law and enter our country illegally. In 2012, President Barack Obama announced his Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, halting deportation proceedings for certain young immigrants who illegally entered the country. More recently, the president stated "our future rests" on the success of people brought to the United States illegally as children. These same children would qualify for citizenship if Congress passes the DREAM Act.
This executive action produced a predictable surge in children risking their lives to cross the border. It is estimated that the United States will apprehend 90,000 children in 2014. This is a drastic increase from the 6,560 illegal minors caught crossing the U.S. border in 2011.
As of June 1 of this year, the Border Patrol already has apprehended more children than it has in any of the previous five years — twice as many as in 2012. Agents have been overwhelmed with as many as 1,200 children crossing the border in a single night.
The president's response has been to capitalize on the crisis by promoting what he calls "comprehensive immigration reform." He claims the Senate's amnesty bill would have prevented this surge. These reforms, however, are bad policy and doomed to fail. Just as the president's decision to halt deportation hearings led to an influx in immigration, accommodating immigrants of any age who have crossed the border illegally will simply inspire more people to cross with the hope that they will be similarly accommodated.
In 1986, Congress passed the Simpson-Mizzoli bill, which granted amnesty to the nation's 3 million illegal immigrants. The bill promised border enforcement would follow. Today, we have somewhere between 10 million and 20 million undocumented workers, and we're still waiting for border security.
In 2005, I authored legislation to rectify the mistakes of the 1980s. It was, at its heart, a border enforcement bill, premised on the simple idea that granting amnesty to current illegal immigrants is a magnet for future illegal immigration. It passed with strong support in the House. Nonetheless, after the bill arrived in the Senate, opposition flooded in from all corners; immigration activists, media elites, academics and even the U.S. Chamber of Commerce attacked it. The bill failed because its opponents wanted amnesty. We are experiencing the repercussions of that failure today.
We cannot repeat the mistakes of our past. While the president and I may disagree about how to best address immigration reform, we should agree that we will exacerbate this problem if we reward illegal behavior instead of standing up to enforce our immigration laws.
Instead of working unilaterally, I encourage the president to coordinate efforts between the administration, Congress and state and local officials to determine how to return these children home humanely at a minimum expense to American taxpayers. In addition, the president should use his powers as commander in chief to send the National Guard to the southern border to maximize security.
The president's response to this crisis he created is appalling. However, manufactured or not, we cannot ignore it. We need to secure our border and eliminate incentives that inspire illegal immigration.
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