WASHINGTON – Call it “the unintended consequences of clever politics”. The current border crisis caused by the unprecedented influx of unaccompanied minors coming into the USA from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras can be traced back to Obama’s decision, right before the 2012 elections, to exempt from deportation illegal immigrants who came into the US as young children.
That was a clever move. In part it was justified. Indeed, why punish young people who, for all practical purposes, grew up as Americans, for the “sin” of having been brought here by their parents as young children? You cannot really say that a 4 year old is guilty of having plotted his/her own illegal immigration into the USA. Fair enough.
Of course, this policy change sold as a humanitarian gesture paid off for Obama politically. It helped him consolidate the support of US Latino voters. And this contributed to his 2012 re-election.
At that time, this appeared to be a clever, timely move aimed at affecting US politics. Nobody foresaw how the ever alert and smart illegal immigration practitioners in Mexico and Central America would manage to exploit this gesture favoring young people who came into the US as illegal children as a tool to increase their human trafficking business volumes.
But here is how this worked. A law passed in 2008, while President George W. Bush was President, provides for special asylum procedures for potentially exploited children from Central America coming into the United States. A small number of cases were processed under the auspices of this law.
However –and here we come to the unintended consequences of clever Obama politics– after the de facto amnesty granted by Obama in 2012, there was a remarkable surge. In 2012 there were more than 10,000 cases. Last year there were 20,000, and this year we are already up to almost 40,000.
The fact is that the illegal immigration industry in Central America put out the word that children from these countries will be granted residency by the US Government. This belief is so widespread that the illegals who cross the US border bringing children along do not make any effort to hide. In fact, they wait to be picked up by the US Border Patrol. After “apprehension”, they are taken to designated facilities and then the children can get a hearing –as the law requires– to determine their asylum eligibility status.
Paralysis at the border
Needless to say, this tremendous increase in the number of children coming in, all at the same time, has caused chaos and paralysis at the US Mexico border. And this, in turn, caused outcries and recriminations.
The Obama administration argues that none of this would have happened, had the Republicans in the House allowed a debate and then a vote on a comprehensive immigration reform bill that had already passed the Senate last year, with rare bipartisan support.
Nobody saw it coming
This is true. But it is also true that the Obama administration did not see the current “children crisis” coming. While Obama did not say in 2012 that his partial, de facto, amnesty should be interpreted as an open door to new illegal children, it seems that nobody in the US Government saw how this limited amnesty could be sold by traffickers to unaware people in Central America as a waiver extended to all children. No one in the Obama administration saw this wave coming. No preparations were made to contain it or meet it adequately.
And now Obama appears despondent and confused. What is he going to do? Take in all these children, this way encouraging this traffic to continue? Or send everybody back, this way appearing cold and heartless to the left of his party that would like an open door policy?
Again, the worst aspect of this border crisis is the perception that no one saw it coming. The Obama people appear frozen and clueless. “Can you believe what happened? And now, what do we do”?
And this confusion reinforces the general idea that this is a government of amateurs who cannot handle anything. The list is long. They did not see ISIL coming into Iraq, and the disastrous consequences of this invasion. They did not see Putin’s intentions about Ukraine and Crimea. They had no clue about the rot within the Department of Veterans Affairs. Last but not least, they had no clue about the unintended, yet predictable, chaos that Obamacare would cause within the US health care sector.
So, there you have it. Bad political judgement, poor execution and incompetence. Can it get any worse for Obama?
Is there a credible alternative?
Who knows. But it can get worse for America. At this time, the country would need a sober opposition that could articulate an alternative vision based on sound policies pushed by competent, credible leaders.
But I would not count on that. The Republican Party is not capable of articulating anything truly constructive, these days. It is deeply divided between unimaginative conservatives and silly, radical populists (the “tea party” wing) who talk fatuously about “going back to the Constitution” without explaining what this should mean, while proposing to impeach Obama. Sure, let’s start an impeachment process that will last a couple of years to get rid of a President with two more years left in office. Yes, that will do it. That will take care of America’s problems.
If this is the best that the opposition can produce, then expect more troubles for America.