It is no surprise that one of the biggest headlines over the past several weeks has been the high number of unaccompanied, undocumented children who have been apprehended near the U.S.-Mexico border. It is troubling to think about what these children must go through during the dangerous journey from their home, in Central America, to the American Southwest. Once they arrive, they are strangers in a foreign country. That is why it is understandable that this current crisis has been the subject of many news articles.
However, there are some people who think the issue with unaccompanied children is just one piece of a much larger problem. One of those individuals is Arizona Rep. Matt Salmon. In an interview with EJ Montini, a columnist at azcentral.com, Rep. Salmon said that he hopes that “something gets done with these kids,” and that the help doesn't end after that. He also noted that colleagues of his were reserved about speaking out on this issue “for the fear that the [Senate] might tack something on that we didn't like or that whatever we passed the president wouldn't implement, or he would pick and choose what to implement.”
Rep. Salmon strongly disagrees with that kind of thinking. He explains his reasoning by saying that it's “like saying let's not throw any passes because someone might intercept it, or let's not run the ball because we might fumble.” He commented that he did not come to Washington, D.C. to act that way.
Rep. Salmon and others have noted that one big hurdle that must be overcome is whether a certain federal law should be revised in order to deal with children from Central America in the same way that children in Mexico are treated. If this happens, it would likely mean that unaccompanied Central American children could be deported to their home countries almost immediately, without an immigration hearing. The 2008 law was originally enacted, in part, to ensure these children were not victims of human trafficking or other injustices.
An alternative revision is what Rep. Salmon is proposing. He believes it is necessary to process Central American children faster and, for those who qualify, to be granted asylum. He pointed out to EJ Montini that “[u]nder the current law it takes too long to process the Central American kids, three to five years.” I would think that most people would find that length of time completely unacceptable.
In addition, Rep. Salmon speaks about how many people think that it is the gangs and terrible violence in countries like El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala that have pretty much forced children to come to the U.S. However, Rep. Salmon points out that there is just as much violence in Mexico. So, what does this mean? In general, Rep. Salmon believes that the U.S. has “totally neglected the Western Hemisphere . . . as we have pivoted to other parts of the world.” He expects the same thing will happen that has happened with past issues: Congress will “put a Band-Aid on that problem.” While a temporary solution may help in the present, there needs to be a much more permanent solution found.