Many countries in parts of the world are very familiar with unwanted immigration, but they do what they can to accommodate it. Think of Italy, France and Spain along the northern shores of the Mediterranean Sea, a broad waterway, which serves as a conduit from Africa.
In this country, opposition to illegal immigration in recent weeks has been very visible. Bus loads of detained immigrants traveling north from the border to detention centers have been blocked by Americans protesting their presence. Detention centers at the border with Mexico have been overloaded, especially with children whose parents believe their children’s prospects will be better in this country.
These are not children – 10, 12 and 14 years old – who were stopped while trying to outrun the small army of U.S. Border Patrol agents and state-of-the-art electronic and aerial surveillance. These were children who, once in the U.S., identified themselves to law enforcement in expectation of receiving favorable treatment. In Central America, the rumor is that while adults will be turned back (the current U.S. president has deported many more illegal immigrants than did any of his predecessors), children will be allowed to stay in the U.S. The result is that parents are accepting separation from their children, and risking their children’s lives, in hopes they will have a better future. That speaks well for the U.S., and not so well for the many homelands.
The crude “you-are-not-welcome-here” placards that have greeted immigration buses have not reflected well on this country.
The ripple effect of the lack of a national immigration policy continues in new ways.
The New York Times reports that the 48-hour hold on detained immigrants in the country illegally and undocumented immigrants who have served sentences is disappearing. That two-day period, which is beyond any sentence, has given the Department of Homeland Security time to determine if people are subject to federal deportation hearings. But, sheriffs, who traditionally run local jails, are wisely concerned that holding these people longer than their sentences require will subject them to legal action. It certainly could.
In response, it is not difficult to imagine that the Department of Homeland Security will work to accelerate its computer searches. But for immigrants in the country illegally who are held in jail only for a short time, even that may not be possible. Without time to complete a Department of Homeland Security screen, many who ought to be deported will go free.
The majority of Americans want a solution to the status of the 11 million immigrants who are in this country illegally, and at the same time, they want a border that is as secure as reasonably possible. They want policies in place that will make clear the categories of people who can stay in the U.S., if they want, and for how long. And, what steps are needed to become a citizen.
It is discouraging to think that because of those who do not want the current president to have significant successes, the country may be at least 2½ years away from even beginning to shape the solutions to the many parts of the immigration challenge. Those in both political parties who recognize that it is not in the country’s interest to defer the immigration issue must speak up.
In the meantime, more children will arrive at the border, and many will be met by protesters. And the system will not permit Homeland Security to make the computer searches that it should.
The country deserves better from its Congress.