WASHINGTON—When hundreds of illegal immigrant children—most teenagers, but some as young as 5 or 6—arrived in Texas this month, government officials dropped some of them off at Arizona bus stations unattended.
Since the government cannot easily deport immigrants from countries other than Mexico and Canada, many of these Central American children are allowed to stay in the United States to find parents or work. Though they are supposed to attend court hearings for eventual deportation, most of them don’t.
“Leaving these children unaccompanied, some of them toddlers, is just flat-out irresponsible,” said Rep. Matt Salmon, R-Ariz.
Salmon and four other conservative congressmen met with reporters today to discuss immigration reform and other issues on Capitol Hill. According to Salmon, several Republicans in Congress are trying to form their own immigration reform bill before President Barack Obama moves on the issue with an executive order that might include amnesty for some immigrants. But other conservatives remain leery of approving a bill the federal government may not enforce.
Rep. Raúl Labrador, R-Idaho, said the government should make sure illegal immigrant children are reunited with their families—in their own countries. “Send them home and encourage them to stay home,” he said at the meeting.
Labrador, who is of Puerto Rican descent, believes in immigration reform but thinks it won’t come through allowing children to enter the country illegally and uncontested. Instead, Congress should overhaul the current system so legal immigrants can enter easily and illegal immigrants are punished, he said.
Two years ago, Obama announced that children of illegal immigrants could avoid deportation if they worked and went to school in the United States for a set period of time. Last year, about 25,000 minors crossed America’s borders illegally. This year, the number has already reached 40,000.
Salmon is frustrated at the current state of immigration laws, which he believes encourage illegal immigrants to come into the country. Besides enacting major reforms, he wants to see amped-up border security.
“Border security is an oxymoron right now,” Salmon said. In his state of Arizona, towns like Nogales and other areas offer easy crossings between Mexico and America. Salmon would like to see double-walled barriers and unmanned drones patrolling larger portions of the southern border.
Salmon also said terrorists pose a potential danger to Arizona. During a recent meeting with Adjutant General Michael McGuire, they talked about several illegal immigrants from the Middle East who crossed the southern border, he said. They came from countries that host al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations.
“It is a serious threat,” Salmon said. “There are many, many reasons for us to keep that border secure.”