Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Columns

July 18, 2014

DAN COATS: Solving border crisis is a moral obligation

National security, child safety are at stake

More than 60,000 unaccompanied alien children — mostly from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador — have been apprehended on America’s southern border during this fiscal year. Another 40,000 family members — one or both parents traveling with their children — have been apprehended during the same time period.

To put these numbers in perspective, just three years ago our Border Patrol apprehended 16,000 unaccompanied alien children. In fiscal year 2008, the number was 8,000.

We cannot sit back and let this situation grow worse, as it does day by day. We must solve this humanitarian crisis and stem the flow of unaccompanied minors entering our country.

I believe the solution involves four key components:

1. Enforcing existing law to stop the influx of illegal immigration and return those who have already come.

Addressing the border crisis is about more than caring for the young boys and girls already in the United States. In reality, the crisis begins when these children start their trip, given the dangers of the journey. Those making the difficult trek from Central America are often in the hands of smugglers or drug runners, largely because of false information and promises that are not true. Sadly, many children experience violence on the way or never make it to the United States.

Why are they risking their lives to make this journey?

In 2010, the White House began administratively chipping away at our nation’s immigration laws. This generated whispers of hope that ran rampant through the families of our Central American neighbors and gave many the false impression that reaching American soil guarantees a new life.

This belief spread in 2012 when President Obama took a further step by essentially halting the removal of illegal immigrants who arrived as minors. Since that time, the rate of children coming illegally across our border has increased exponentially. Current law requires that these children be returned to their home countries as quickly and expeditiously as possible, and we must follow it.

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