Obama Twisting in Wind on Immigration Crisis

Obama Twisting in Wind on Immigration Crisis

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President Obama needed to turn around out his drooping standing with Latinos going into the 2012 election. To gin up support, he initiated his Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, thus unleashing a massive migration of unaccompanied youngsters hoping for the rumored “permiso.” Did Obama and his political cronies understand the consequences of his actions? Were they concerned about the potential flood of migrant children? Or were they just completely clueless? 

This is the upshot of the border crisis: even people like me, who have favored broad-based immigration reform, are getting angry. To see tens of thousands of children arrive at our border, to be sent to communities across the country where taxpayers will house and care for them, and provide them with an education -- this is not right. The United States stands for certain things, among them generosity and openness. But we also stand for the rule of law, which appears to have collapsed altogether. 

I’m not alone. Communities across the country are up in arms over efforts to lodge the immigrant children in their midst. Mayors and governors worry about budgets; parents worry about overcrowded classrooms and higher taxes to pay for it all. Recent polling shows Americans now put immigration as the nation’s top problem – ahead of jobs and the economy -- a ranking not seen for years. Nearly 60 percent of the country disagrees with Obama’s handling of the issue. Americans also think Republicans have failed to manage our immigration mess. They are correct.

Some think President Obama and his Democrat cronies purposefully engineered this “humanitarian crisis” at our border in order to force through immigration reform and further embarrass recalcitrant Republicans. I disagree -- if they anticipated the fall-out, they cynically accepted that the displaced children were the cost of winning the election. But, it’s hard to imagine they foresaw this as a winning move. 

These young people may indeed end up residing in the U.S., but their shot at legal status is sinking right along with President Obama’s approval ratings. Indeed, a rising number of Americans –- now 80 percent -- think it is important to secure our border in order to limit illegal immigration. 

Currently, the White House is scrambling to stem the flow. They even chartered a plane and sent 29 women and children back to Honduras. That surely won’t build Democrats’ stock among Hispanics. But, it seems a necessary evil to convince Central American families that they cannot count on sanctuary here.  

Democrats are split on how to confront this crisis. (It should be noted that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid actually pronounced the border secure at a recent press briefing; his opinion no longer counts.) Many think that deporting the youngsters back to their country of origin is inhumane. Senator Dick Durbin asked plaintively, “What are we returning them to?” This concern is laudable, and widely shared, but I wonder where their sympathy was when tens of thousands of children were dying in Syria. Why are we responsible for the terrible violence in Honduras but not Iraq?

Americans are a good-hearted people, but we feel snookered and besieged. The president needs to fix this. He needs to work with Congress to quickly pass the bipartisan, bicameral legislation just introduced by Senator John Cornyn and Rep. Henry Cuellar. The so-called HUMANE Act proposed by the two Texans would amend the 2008 law so that children from Central America could be deported in the same manner as youngsters from Canada and Mexico, and would add 40 new judges to speed up the process. That’s a start. 

Obama also needs to respect GOP pushback against his requested $3.7 billion in emergency funds, and be willing to compromise, rather than just repeating his usual charges of obstruction. Republicans consider his plan overly focused on housing facilities for the migrants; they would give higher priority to returning the children to their own countries. Given Congress’ calendar, the time for action is short. Consequently, it might be a good time for Obama to postpone further campaign swings or golf outings and attend to the country’s business.  

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After more than two decades on Wall Street as a top-ranked research analyst, Liz Peek became a columnist and political analyst. Aside from The Fiscal Times, she writes for FoxNews.com, The New York Sun and Women on the Web.