In case you missed it this weekend, make amends now. We already knew that the White House was warned years ago about a surge of illegal immigrant children at the border: It was Rick Perry, in fact, who warned them. But pitting Perry against O is a bad way to frame Obama’s negligence here, as it suggests to the uninformed that fingers are pointing at the White House for partisan reasons.
The administration did too little to heed those warnings, according to interviews with former government officials, outside experts and immigrant advocates, leading to an inadequate response that contributed to this summer’s escalating crisis.
Federal officials viewed the situation as a “local problem,” said Victor Manjarrez Jr., a former Border Patrol station chief who led the UTEP study. The research, conducted last year, was funded by the Department of Homeland Security and published in March. A broader crisis was “not on anyone’s radar,” Manjarrez added, even though “it was pretty clear this number of kids was going to be the new baseline.”…
But top officials at the White House and the State Department had been warned repeatedly of the potential for a further explosion in the number of migrant children since the crisis began escalating two years ago, according to former federal officials and others familiar with internal discussions. The White House was directly involved in efforts in early 2012 to care for the children when it helped negotiate a temporary shelter at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio.
“There were warning signs, operational folks raising red flags to high levels in terms of this being a potential issue,” said one former senior federal law enforcement official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk candidly about internal operations.
The number of children from Central America who crossed the border illegally went from just shy of 4,000 in 2011 to just shy of … 21,000 in 2013. Ninety thousand are projected to arrive through the first nine months of this year. There are signs recently, per the NYT, that the rate is slowing — bus drivers in Mexico report fewer passengers and the Border Patrol isn’t apprehending quite as many kids each day as they were over the past few months — although it’s hard to say why. Maybe Central American countries are doing a better job of stopping people from leaving without authorization; maybe the U.S. PR campaign there discouraging people from coming is starting to work. WaPo flags an interesting tidbit, though, in noting that many illegals have told the Border Patrol that they thought, for some strange reason, that the U.S. was granting “permisos” to children until June 2014. Now that June has come and gone, so has some of the crush of illegals. But how’d they get that crazy idea about the timeline? Well, June happened to be the month that DHS announced that DREAMers who qualified for Obama’s 2012 executive amnesty (a.k.a. DACA) could renew their eligibility for two more years. Somehow, the word may have filtered back to Central America that that meant newly arrived illegals could also register for DACA. (They can’t — yet.) In other words, DACA was encouraging new illegal immigration, albeit on a mistaken assumption about the law. Remember that when Obama eventually decides to expand DACA to five million adult illegals here too.
But wait a sec. If the White House knew about this problem two years ago, why didn’t they coordinate with Central American governments to address it then? Apparently, some of the new deterrents are working. They could have stopped the border crisis in its infancy.
Any theories? Any thoughts on why Obama didn’t consider it a priority to enforce the border in, ahem, 2012?
Meanwhile, top officials focused much of their attention on political battles, such as Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign and the push to win congressional support for a broad immigration overhaul, that would have been made more difficult with the addition of a high-profile border crisis…
“Was the White House told there were huge flows of Central Americans coming? Of course they were told. A lot of times,’’ said the person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. “Was there a general lack of interest and a focus on the legislation? Yes, that’s where the focus was.’’
Not only did Obama ignore Perry’s letter in May 2012, he signed DACA just a month later, on June 15. At a moment when he could have, and should have, acted quickly to slow the flow of illegal immigration, he turned around instead and created a massive incentive for it. And he did it, of course, because he was desperate to pander to Latino voters, whose support he needed to stop Romney in November. The irony is that, by ignoring the nascent border crisis then, he made it possible for the politics of immigration reform to grow so hot now that a big amnesty deal is off the table for yet another year. Maybe he prefers it that way since he can always issue a mega-DACA order later and effectively legalize everyone else who’s here, potentially an even more effective pander to Latinos than DACA itself was, but there’s lots of backlash potential in that and his pro-amnesty fans on the left might not be satisfied with anything short of legislation. Had he stopped this crisis before it really started, Boehner and the other GOP reform supporters would have a freer hand to defy the rest of the caucus and make a deal. Oh well. Wait ’til next year.