The following editorial appeared in the Dallas Morning News on Wednesday, July 16:
Republican Sen. John Cornyn and Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar, both from Texas, presented a bill earlier this week to address the most urgent aspect of the immigration crisis: finding a mechanism to return unaccompanied Central American minors to their countries as quickly as possible. Lawmakers should give this bill serious consideration.
Congress must place the highest priority on stanching the immigration flow by telling would-be immigrants that they won't succeed in attempts to flood our borders and remain here illegally. The message they're currently receiving from smuggling organizations is that they are sheltered from immediate deportation because of a 2008 U.S. law designed to combat child sex trafficking.
"It shows how creative the criminal mind can be," Cornyn said of the smugglers, who reap millions in profits from migrants and pass the proceeds to the Mexican drug cartels that control access to the border.
Cornyn correctly notes that the current crisis is not a border-security problem. These youths are not evading capture. In fact, they're surrendering immediately, having been told by smugglers that U.S. detention is just a temporary obstacle.
Given the high levels of poverty and violence back home in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, the incentive is high for children to attempt the dangerous run for the U.S. border. They need the strongest possible signal - planeloads of deportees returning home in defeat - to understand that this is not a route to success.
The Cornyn-Cuellar bill would dramatically speed up removals by adding 40 more immigration court judges and reducing wait times for youths to appear for removal hearings. Under the 2008 law, unaccompanied minors are guaranteed a hearing to determine whether they would face persecution or exploitation if returned to their countries. The court process can take months, during which time they are released to live with family members or caregivers. Nearly half never return for their hearing.
When word of this process reaches back home, thousands more migrants follow. Cornyn wants to cut the wait time to within seven days of an initial screening and potentially get them on a plane back home shortly thereafter.
This bill wouldn't address the estimated 57,000 children who already have entered since October and are protected by the 2008 provisions. It would, however, handle the additional tens of thousands almost certain to arrive in coming months. Cornyn didn't have a cost figure for this plan but expects it to be a fraction of the $3.7 billion White House plan to address the broader immigration crisis.
Members of Congress, of course, can politicize and debate this proposal into oblivion. But voters want solutions now, not more stalemates. And Central Americans need to receive an immediate, unequivocal message: Stay home and don't risk your lives or money on a fruitless journey.
KEY COMPONENTS OF THE CORNYN-CUELLAR BILL
_Improves the 2008 William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act by treating all unaccompanied migrant children crossing our border with equality, whether they're from Mexico, Central America or any other country.
_Requires immigration judges to hear cases involving unaccompanied migrant children within seven days of an initial screening.
_Authorizes hiring up to 40 new immigration judges and keeps current law in place requiring government efforts to secure pro bono legal counsel for the child.
_Requires immigration judges to rule on whether an unaccompanied migrant child is eligible to remain in the United States within 72 hours of making a claim. Children who succeed in their claim will be allowed to remain in the United States in the custody of a sponsor while pursuing legal remedies.