2014 illegal immigration surge
- 1 Administration policy attempts
- 2 Democratic policy attempts
- 3 Republican policy attempts
- 4 Bipartisan policy attempts
- 5 Actions taken
- 6 Recent news
- 7 See also
- 8 References
Administration policy attempts
Detention center increase
On June 20, 2014, President Barack Obama released a plan to increase the amount of detention centers, use more ankle bracelets to track immigrants waiting for hearings and shift more immigration judges to southern Texas in order to speed up the hearings process. The same day, Vice President Joe Biden met with the leaders of Central American countries to discuss plans to slow the surge. While the White House announced it would provide Guatemala with $40 million to mitigate gang violence and $25 million to El Salvador to start youth programs for those pressured by gang violence, Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina suggested, "I proposed to the Vice-President the possibility of considering temporary work programs, which would allow (Guatemalans) to go for a time and return." An unnamed U.S. official claimed that the administration's message to those seeking entry into the U.S. legally was increasingly, "'Don't come.' And if you think you're coming and once you're here you won't be returned, that's not the case. You're not going to be able to stay."
- June 20, 2014
- A spokesperson for Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) insisted Gutierrez, "does not support the idea of putting children and families fleeing violence in detention while they await our courts to catch up to the current crisis."
- On the other hand, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) argued in a letter to Obama that the National Guard could assume the duty of handling undocumented children crossing the border freeing up Border Patrol to focus on guarding the boundary. He stated in his letter, "While we understand that many of these individuals are coming to this country to escape violence and hardship in their home country, the current climate along the border and our enforcement policies are only encouraging them to risk their lives and those of their children."
Funding increase request
On July 9, 2014, Obama requested a $3.7 billion budget increase in order to carry out the administration's plan to create new detention centers and speed up the hearings process. A spokesman for Boehner suggested, "The speaker still supports deploying the National Guard to provide humanitarian support in the affected areas — which this proposal does not address." However, in a closed meeting with House Republicans, Boehner urged action on the bill prior to the August recess.
Refugee status extension
The White House announced on July 24, 2014, the consideration of a proposal allowing for citizens of Honduras, where many unaccompanied minors were illegally migrating from due to gang violence, to file for refugee status. The ability to file as a refugee would prevent migrants from having to make the dangerous journey from Honduras with an unknown outcome and would allow them to apply for refugee status prior to leaving the country. While supporters of the idea believe offering refugee status would greatly cut down the flow of immigrants crossing the border, a Federation for American Immigration Reform spokesperson warned, "Once you stretch the definition of refugee to include people in countries where there is violence or widespread poverty, you are going to create the expectation that people will be granted asylum, based on the same claim, if they get to the United States." The White House acknowledged the proposal was being considered, but a spokesperson clarified, "It doesn't mean we're going to do it."
Executive order On July 19, 2014, Rep. Gutierrez announced at a speech in Los Angeles, California, that he believed Obama would sign an executive order in the coming months that would grant legal status to millions of immigrants.
Due to the House's continued failure to pass a bill, President Obama was expected to issue an executive order in August 2014. Possible policies that were reportedly considered at the time included granting working visas to many illegal immigrants, easing the pressure on immigration courts, expanding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and reordering the deportation priority list.
- July 31, 2014
- Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) claimed that if President Obama used an executive order to carry out immigration reform, it would set his "legacy of lawlessness" in stone. Boehner stated, "He’ll be sacrificing the integrity of our laws on the altar of political opportunity, and I can guarantee you the American people would hold him to account. The actions he’s threatening to take are not about policy. They’re about politics."
- August 12, 2014
- Former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez announced his support of Obama using an executive order to ease the border crisis, explaining, "I support the President's commitment to address this issue provided his actions are consistent with his duty under the Constitution to faithfully execute our laws." The George W. Bush appointee and immigration reform advocate pointed out his displeasure that the children were being used as political pawns, stating, "When he acts, the president should leave no doubt that while we are a compassionate nation that takes care of children, we are also a nation of laws and will enforce those laws to secure our borders."
President Obama announced on September 6, 2014, that he would delay any executive actions on immigration until after the November 4, 2014 elections in order to keep the issue from being politicized as a campaign issue. Obama explained, "The truth of the matter is – is that the politics did shift midsummer because of that problem. I want to spend some time, even as we’re getting all our ducks in a row for the executive action, I also want to make sure that the public understands why we’re doing this, why it’s the right thing for the American people, why it’s the right thing for the American economy."
- September 7, 2014
- The decision to delay any executive orders relating to the surge of undocumented minors in the country drew sharp criticism from Rep. Gutierrez. He claimed the lack of action could change the minds of latino voters, even if it did help democrats in the mid-term election, stating, "It’s clear that playing it safe is what is going on at the White House… walking away from our values and our principles. Playing it safe might win an election … but it almost never leads to fairness, to justice and to good public policy that you can be proud of."
Obama's deportation protection order
President Obama's November 20, 2014 executive order protected the parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents of the U.S. from deportation for three years, if they have lived in the U.S. since at least January 1, 2010. The DACA program was also revised in order to extend those protections for another three years, for those who have lived in the U.S. since at least January 1, 2010. Those accepted into the program would be eligible for social security numbers and work permits. Additionally, the administration said it would create more visas for immigrants interested in working in high-tech fields if they showed interest in investing economically in the U.S. In total, the order was expected to protect 4 million people, 3.7 million undocumented parents of citizens and 300,000 undocumented children. President Obama defended his actions in issuing the order and pointed a sharp criticism toward Congress, stating, "The actions I’m taking are not only lawful, they’re the kinds of actions taken by every single Republican president and every single Democratic president for the past half-century. And to those members of Congress who question my authority to make our immigration system work better, or question the wisdom of me acting where Congress has failed, I have one answer: Pass a bill."
- November 21, 2014
- Boehner announced that House Republicans would act to halt the executive order, a solution some Republicans aren't even convinced is possible. Boehner said, "We're working with our members and looking at the options that are available to us, but I will say to you, the House will, in fact, act."
Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson also announced changes resulting from the executive order. The Secure Communities program, designed for law enforcement to detain undocumented immigrants who have been arrested until they could be screened by immigration agents, was replaced with the Priority Enforcement Program, which was designed to allow local authorities to determine whether an immigrant's crime warranted a screening. The DHS changes were designed to prioritize the capture and deportation of felons, terrorists and others posing national security threats.
Democratic policy attempts
Vulnerable Immigrant Voice Act
On June 24, 2014, Democratic lawmakers introduced the Vulnerable Immigrant Voice Act, which would provide lawyers to undocumented and unaccompanied minors and the mentally handicapped during their immigration hearings. Unaccompanied minors can make one of three arguments to stay in the United States after crossing the border illegally. According to The Hill, they "can either claim asylum; claim a special status if they're under 21 and have been abused, neglected or abandoned by one or both parents; or seek a visa if they are victims of serious crimes." However, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), co-sponsor of the bill, claimed, "Some of the children who have come to this country may not have a valid legal basis to remain, but some will. Yet, it is virtually impossible for a child to assert a valid claim under immigration law in the absence of legal representation."
Mikulski's compromise attemptBarbara Mikulski (D-MD) filed a supplemental bill on July 24, 2014, that would make temporary spending changes for the Departments of Health and Human Services and Homeland Security through the end of the calendar year. Mikulski attempted to gain some Republican supporters by including spending to help Israel in their conflict with the Palestinians. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) commented, "We have to deal with this immediate crisis. I’d consider that," but while she may have gotten some new eyes on the bill, others weren't as interested in the temporary compromise. Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM), a border state senator, said he would be sticking with Senate leadership, stating, "I’m trying to be part of the group to see if we can build a majority for something,” Udall said. “I think there has been a pretty firm position from leadership to not do any language on the supplemental — to not do any language at all.
Mikulski's House counterpart, Appropriations Committee Chair Hal Rogers (R-KY) set out on a similar path to Mikulski, working to present a bill to solve the problem by the end of the calendar year, but changed gears on July 28, 2014, to focus more on presenting a bill that would resolve the issue until the next fiscal year, beginning in October 2014. The bill was expected to be a very scaled down version of the $1.5 billion dollar spending bill he had in mind for the end of the calendar year in an effort to get something passed before Congress went to recess.
The bill did not pass the Senate on a July 31, 2014 vote of 50-44. All Republicans present voted against the bill's passage as well as two democrats, Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Mary Landrieu (D-LA), while all other democrats present voted in favor of the bill. Mikulski voiced her disappointment in the governing body, stating, "We’re no longer the greatest deliberative body, we’re the greatest delaying body in the world. We’re facing a really serious problem in our country. … Certainly we can deal with 60,000 children." Republicans claimed they would not vote for the bill because they were not allowed to offer any amendments before voting. They tried adding an amendment changing the 2008 law to make deportations easier to process, but it failed to make it into the final bill. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) was also disappointed in Senate, stating, "I say shame on you for failing to let senators from the states most affected to offer amendments. Not a single one."
Republican policy attempts
Twelve policy ideas
Texas GOP urge executive action
On July 24, 2014, the entire Republican congressional delegation from Texas signed a letter urging the president to take executive action in easing the border crisis. The letter calls for President Obama to strengthen his border policies, suggesting, "Enforcing current immigration laws will go a long way to solving the border crisis." Included in the letter were five suggestions to the president:
- Stop any executive orders that weaken border security. Actions weakening border security encourage illegal immigration due to the lack of punishment.
- End the catch and release program for illegal and convicted criminal immigrants that allow them to stay in the United States instead of being detained and deported.
- Improve cooperation with local law enforcement agencies to help enforce immigration laws and deal with criminal immigrants.
- Do not tolerate immigration fraud.
- Expedite the processing and deportation of illegal immigrants.
Temporary fix attempt The proposed bill, however, does not provide funding for additional judges to be sent to work in border state immigration courts or funds to provide legal representation to minors seeking asylum. While Speaker John Boehner said, "I think there is sufficient support in the House to move this bill," Minority Whip Steny Hoyer stated, "I don’t see myself trying to get votes for a language change whose ramifications nobody knows at this time." Sen. Ted Cruz, on the other hand, announced he would not support the bill because it did not involve changes to the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals, a 2012 executive action by President Obama aimed at delaying childhood deportations. Cruz argued, "The only way to stop the border crisis is to stop Obama’s amnesty. It is disappointing the border security legislation unveiled today does not include language to end Obama’s amnesty. Congress cannot hope to solve this problem without addressing the fundamental cause of it."
On July 30, 2014, the Obama administration stated they would advise him to veto Rogers' bill if it passed through Congress. The administration called the bill "patchwork" and stated, "H.R. 5230 could make the situation worse, not better." In summarizing why the bill would be vetoed, the administration noted that it did not provide funding to fight the forest fires in the western United States and stated on the immigration issue, "We can assure you that this bill would make the problem worse. It would do so because children would be deported without due process and undercut public safety by shifting resources away from deporting criminals.Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) insisted on July 31, 2014, that if House Republicans wanted to get the bill passed before leaving town, they would not be able to rely on votes from democrats, claiming, "Let me put it this way: The Democrats are not going to enable that bill to pass. That's the number that we're interested in. [Republicans] are going to have to do that on their own." However, a number of democrats appeared to be willing to vote for the bill's passage and more were still debating whether to support the Republican-sponsored bill or not. Rep. David Scott (D-GA) suggested he would rather support a flawed bill than leave on recess without having taken any action, stating, "We've got to do something, and we've got to do the best we can do given the situation. There's an urgency here."
The Obama administration criticized the bill on July 31, 2014, claiming Congress should have taken action before Obama used an executive order to establish the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program instead of trying to eliminate the effects of it by passing Rogers' bill. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest stated, "In the face of Congressional inaction, the administration's use of Deferred Action for DREAMErs in 2012, which has benefitted more than 500,000 young people who are Americans in every way except on paper, is the most significant progress we have made toward immigration reform in years."
Republican leadership pulled the bill from the schedule on July 31, 2014, the last scheduled day before Congress' August recess, before deciding to delay their recess until they could get a vote passed. The vote was not rescheduled at the time, with Rep. Rich Nugent (R-FL) stating, "We don’t vote until we get 218. What leadership is going to do is sit down with each of those members, find out what it would take them to get to a yes. And I don’t think it’s that far apart to get to yes…maybe it’s just a matter of education." Texas Governor Rick Perry (R) criticized Congress for not having taken action sooner when he issued a statement on July 31, 2014, and he urged Congress to stay in session until they get make headway on the border issue. Perry stated, "While Texas has taken what steps it can to mitigate the damage caused by a porous border, Congress and the President have a duty to address our border security issues without further delay. Congress should not go into recess until the job is completed."
Stopgap funding bill
- See also: United States budget debate, 2013
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) called for legislation similar to that passed by the House prior to the congressional recess, ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, be passed. He used a similar tactic leading up to the 2013 government shutdown, when he and House allies insisted a stopgap funding bill include the delay of the implementation of Obamacare, a move democrats would not support. Cruz stated, "I think we should use any and all means necessary to prevent the president from illegally granting amnesty. Certainly I think it would be appropriate to include in the [continuing resolution], but I think we should use every tool at our disposal." Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) understood the threat and responded, "They have every right to do whatever they want legislatively. If they want to be the lead team of shutting down the government, that’s what they’re going to have to do."
Bipartisan policy attempts
Repeal of 2008 trafficking law
Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX) introduced a bill on July 27, 2014. The bill would repeal the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act in order to allow for the faster deportation of unaccompanied minor coming from Central America. While Republicans largely showed support for the bill, Democratic leadership did not show the same support. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) argued that the faster deportations would send people back to potentially dangerous situations in their home countries. Cuellar aligned with Homeland Security Secretary Johnson in the call for tighter border restrictions and a faster deportation rate. Cuellar said of the bill, "The American public wants us to have an orderly border. Right now, they’re not seeing that. They’re seeing chaos at the border."
National Guard deploymentGovernor of Texas Rick Perry first brought attention to the immigration problem in May 2012, explaining that "there is a surge of unaccompanied illegal minors entering the United States." Again, he wrote a letter to Obama about the issue on July 10, 2014. In the letter, he insisted the president attack the core of the problem, stating, "Securing our border will provide an immediate reduction in the number of illegal immigrants entering our country, which is the source of this current crisis.
On July 21, 2014, Perry used his executive power as governor to call upon the National Guard to assist border patrol in guarding the United States border against illegal immigration. Since Perry activated the National Guard, the state will be charged for their services. Perry additionally requested 3,000 more border patrol agents along the Texas-Mexico border. He named the move Operation Strong Safety, claiming, "The price of inaction is too high."
Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX) claimed Perry was using the situation for political gain while allowing Texas to descend into a police state. Castro argued in a letter written to Perry on July 28, 2014, "The people of South Texas do not want to and should not have to live in a police state." Since Perry's announcement of ordering the National Guard to the border, he and Castro started a war of words with Castro claiming Perry is militarizing the border and Perry denying militarization while questioning Castro's understanding of his plan.
State governorsMultiple state governors voiced their displeasure with the handling of the unaccompanied minors illegally crossing the border into the United States. The reasons varied from the childrens' health and safety, border security, the cost to states of caring for them and having them transported by the federal government to their states without notification. The most notable comments were:
- The governors of Utah, Kansas, Pennsylvania, Alabama, North Carolina and Wisconsin wrote letters to President Obama urging the administration to speed up the deportation process for the children or else the administrations actions, "will send a message that will encourage a much larger movement towards our southern border."
- Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant (R) wrote a letter stating he would do everything in his power to stop the federal government from transporting the illegal immigrants to the state. He also blamed the weak enforcement of border policies for the "serious threat of violence and abuse at the hands of human traffickers" that the many immigrants faced in getting to the United States.
- Arizona Governor Jan Brewer (R) argued that the administration was putting the unaccompanied minors into potentially dangerous situations, claiming, "During the call, it was confirmed what I have long suspected – the Obama administration has specifically chosen to avoid its due diligence and is releasing Unaccompanied Alien Children into the care and custody of so-called ‘sponsors’ — individuals about whom the administration does not check immigration or deportation status."
- New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez (R) stated that it "is a 100% federal issue," and it needed to be addressed in by Congress.
- The Connecticut, Colorado, Maryland and Delaware governors all offered some type of assistance in helping ease the situation.
Rejection of immigrants
In June 2014, Lawrenceville, Virginia residents held a meeting in which they rejected a bid by St. Paul's College to accept 500 unaccompanied illegal minor immigrants. The historically black college needed funds to pay off debts, as it was on the verge of closing and no longer accepted students. 1,000 of the towns 1,400 residents lined an auditorium to voice their opinions. One man stated of the poor community, "I feel sorry for them, they’re children and they’re lost, but I don’t want them here. We need to take care of our own house before we take care of others." The same debates were similarly taking place in towns across the country.
Use of military facilitiesU.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced on August 4, 2014, that the three military bases that were being used to house more than 7,700 migrant minors would be fazed out of use by October 2014. The bases, Fort Sill (Oklahoma), Lackland Air Force Base (Texas) and Naval Base Ventura County (California) were estimated to cost about three times more for housing the children than normal shelters, but due to the high influx of minors crossing from Central America since January 2014, HHS needed a temporary solution to their housing problem, claiming, "To prudently manage its resources, HHS will be suspending these temporary facilities. We are able to take this step because we have proactively expanded capacity to care for children in standard shelters, which are significantly less costly facilities. At the same time, we have seen a decrease in the number of children crossing the southwest border."
Opposition to deportations
Immigrants call for White House boycott
On July 28, 2014, a group of undocumented immigrants traveled through Washington, D.C. visiting different advocacy groups, Center for American Progress, National Immigration Forum and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, arguing that they should boycott the visits to the White House until President Obama used his executive powers to bring a safe resolution to the immigration issue. Their letter to the advocacy groups read, "We have one shot to convince him to do the right thing. And we must unite to defend the decision if and when he does. It is clear that the people best qualified to make the case to the President are those immigrants who are harmed by status quo and who stand to be benefited by administrative relief." A White House spokesperson would only respond that Obama meets "regularly with immigration advocates and supporters to discuss the immigration issue."
George Will on deportations
Noted conservative columnist George Will made waves on July 27, 2014, when he came out against the deportation of unaccompanied minors, stating, "I think we ought to say to these children, ‘Welcome to America. You’re going to go to school and get a job and become Americans. We have 3,141 counties in this country. That’d be 20 per county." He followed that statement by criticizing those who think the minors would be a danger, claiming, "The idea that we can’t assimilate these 8-year-old criminals with their teddy bears is preposterous."
Urge to keep legal protections
Head of the National Association of Immigration Judges Dana Leigh Marks, citing the need to create an atmosphere where illegal minors feel comfortable enough to relate their stories in immigration courts, urged the administration not to take action that would try to rush court cases through the system. On August 8, 2014, she claimed, "We know of the political reality that is putting pressure on the administration to queue these cases quickly. And yet, from a judge's point of view — apart from politics ... there are many challenges that we face in these cases that make them more likely to go slowly rather than quickly." She was supported in her opinion by numerous immigration lawyers, one of whom suggested, "It takes awhile to get their story. Number one, they're children. They don't tell us stories in the chronological way that adults might. They're not cognizant of the legal principles that are important to us." While the administration requested funding for 40 new judges to help with the caseloads, Marks stated that 75 would need to be added each year over the next three years. She explained, "Our solution to this problem is giving enough money to the system so that everybody's case is heard in a timeframe that we feel is fair."
This section displays the most recent stories in a Google news search for the term Immigration + surge
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- Politico, "White House unveils new plan to address immigration crisis," June 20, 2014
- Reuters, "Central America presses Biden on migrant rights as U.S. vows aid," June 20, 2014
- USA Today, "Obama seeks $3.7B to stem tide of kids crossing border," July 9, 2014
- Politico, "John Boehner urges action on border bill," July 9, 2014
- Wall Street Journal, "Proposal Would Alter Process for Migrating," July 24, 2014
- New York Times, "Obama Says He’ll Order Action to Aid Immigrants," June 30, 2014
- L.A. Times, "Congressman optimistic Obama will grant immigrants legal status," July 19, 2014
- Politico, "Barack Obama's immigration moves could be unstoppable," July 30, 2014
- The Hill, "Boehner: Obama will cement ‘legacy of lawlessness’ with immigration order," July 31, 2014
- The Hill, "Ex-Bush attorney general backs executive action on immigration," August 12, 2014
- Fox News, "Obama Delays Any Immigration Action Until After November Elections," September 6, 2014
- Fox News, "Rep. Gutierrez Slams Obama For 'Playing It Safe' On Immigration Reform Executive Action," September 7, 2014
- The Washington Post, "Obama acts on immigration, announcing decision to defer deportations of 4 million," November 20, 2014
- The Hill, "Boehner: House will act to stop Obama," November 21, 2014
- The Hill, "Bill would provide lawyers to children crossing border," June 24, 2014
- Politico, "Path to child migrant compromise?," July 24, 2014
- Politico, "GOP cuts cost — and timeline — on border bill," July 28, 2014
- The Hill, "Emergency border bill stalls in Senate," July 31, 2014
- Politico, "House GOP offers border fix plan," July 23, 2014
- Politico, "Texas GOP pols sign border letter," July 25, 2014
- The Hill, "Read Texas Republicans' letter to Obama," July 24, 2014
- Politico, "House GOP cuts border funding bill," July 29, 2014
- Politico, "House border bill: Light on judges, no funds for legal counsel for child migrants," July 29, 2014
- Politico, "Cruz opposes House border bill," July 29, 2014
- The Hill, "White House threatens to veto $659M House border bill," July 30, 2014
- The Hill "Pelosi: Republicans 'on their own' in border vote," July 31, 2014
- The Hill, "White House blasts GOP deportation bill," July 31, 2014
- The Hill, "House Republicans put off long recess for last-ditch border push," July 31, 2014
- The Hill, "Gov. Perry: Congress shouldn’t recess until border ‘job is completed’," July 31, 2014
- The Hill, "Cruz injects border into budget fight," September 9, 2014
- Politico, "Cornyn, Cuellar push border bill," July 27, 2014
- Politico, "Rick Perry writes again to Barack Obama on border," July 10, 2014
- CNN, "Perry sending National Guard troops to border," July 21, 2014
- Politico, "Joaquín Castro blasts Rick Perry for border stunts," July 29, 2014
- The Washington Post, "At least 32 governors have weighed in on the border crisis. Here’s what each has said.," July 23, 2014
- The Washington Post, "A town that blocked child immigrants reflects, with and without regrets," July 25, 2014
- Politico, "HHS: Military facilities won’t house border kids," August 4, 2014
- Politico, "Undocumented immigrants call for White House boycott," July 28, 2014
- Daily Caller, "George Will Says U.S. Should ‘Welcome’ Illegal Children, Mocks Supporters Of Deportation," July 27, 2014
- The Hill, "Immigrant advocates, judges warn against fast-tracking border screenings," August 8, 2014