On Wednesday last week, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson delivered a blunt warning. “I’m concerned about the possibility of another rise in illegal migration,” he said, referring to the flood of unaccompanied minors that overwhelmed Border Patrol agents and caused a humanitarian crisis over the summer.
Just one day later, President Obama announced he was unilaterally granting amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants who are already in the country – a move that will almost certainly “encourage more people to come here illegally, putting their lives at risk,” Speaker Boehner noted.
Indeed, according to The New York Times’ Ross Douthat, “Obama has implicitly strengthened the incentives to attempt to smuggle in minor children, to send those same children across the border on their own, and to bear children while in the United States illegally.”
Even President Obama once agreed. When illegal immigration activists urged him to unilaterally grant them legal status or “ignore the laws” and suspend deportations, he said in July 2010 that he did not have the legal authority to do so. He warned that “such an indiscriminate approach would be both unwise and unfair. It would suggest to those thinking about coming here illegally that there will be no repercussions for such a decision. And this could lead to a surge in more illegal immigration.”
What President Obama said then was correct. In June 2012, he unilaterally granted deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA), and the number of apprehensions at our southern border in the Rio Grande Valley increased sharply. Democratic Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (IL-04) confirmed that many of the minors crossing the border were encouraged to make the journey because of DACA.
Sadly, many were taken advantage of, or worse. “We don’t even know how many of these kids don’t make it, and may have been waylaid into sex trafficking or killed because they fell off a train,” President Obama told ABC News in June this year, at the height of the influx.
Immigrants that did not lose their lives faced “horrific conditions” in overcrowded detention centers that were never intended or equipped to handle tens of thousands of people at once.
To address this humanitarian crisis, House Republicans passed a bill to speed up the process of safely returning unaccompanied children to their home countries – a solution supported by a majority of Americans. Senate Democrats failed to pass anything after President Obama reversed his initial position and opposed the measure.
Ultimately, the vast majority of the illegal immigrants who crossed the border this summer were released into communities across the United States. The Associated Press revealed in September that “about 70 percent of immigrant families the Obama administration had released into the U.S. never showed up weeks later for follow up appointments” with federal immigration agents. It previously reported that “children who make the dangerous trip can effectively remain in the U.S. for years before facing even a moderate risk of deportation.”
Indeed, with the backlog of court cases standing at roughly 400,000, some hearings are being scheduled four years from now, in 2018. After President Obama’s unilateral action last week, the stage is set for things to get even worse, just as he once predicted.