3Qs: What’s next on immigration reform?

Rachel Rosenbloom

Tens of thou­sands of unac­com­pa­nied chil­dren from Cen­tral America have ille­gally crossed the U.S. southern boarder in the past nine months, fleeing coun­tries such as El Sal­vador, Hon­duras, and Guatemala to escape poverty and vio­lence. Pres­i­dent Barack Obama has called the issue a “human­i­tarian sit­u­a­tion.” It’s also a sit­u­a­tion that has major polit­ical impli­ca­tions ahead of the U.S. midterm elec­tions this fall. Here, Rachel Rosen­bloom, an immi­gra­tion policy expert and asso­ciate pro­fessor of law at North­eastern Uni­ver­sity, explains the cause of this surge and what the fed­eral government’s next step should be.

Courtesy photo from ThinkStock

What is at the center of this crisis at the U.S. southern border? Is there any part of the issue that isn’t receiving enough attention?

The real crisis is the epidemic levels of violence occurring in the countries these children are fleeing from. For the U.S., the situation at the border is not a crisis, but rather a logistical challenge that the federal government should be able to handle as it has handled influxes of refugees in the past.

The situation has focused public attention on the rising levels of gang violence in Central America, but we should also be paying attention to the fact that many of these children have been separated from their parents for many years by our broken immigration system. In some cases, the parents are lawfully present in the U.S., but they have not been able to reunite with their children. The separation of families is itself a contributing factor to the crisis in Central America.

How does the 2008 anti-human-trafficking law, which affords greater legal protections to unaccompanied minors from non-contiguous countries than those who arrive illegally from Mexico or Canada, factor into the current situation?

The Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2008, provides procedural safeguards to ensure that unaccompanied minors are able to exercise their right to seek asylum and other forms of relief within the U.S. Congress is currently considering eliminating these protections. This would be a step backward. The safeguards should be maintained, and should be expanded to fully include unaccompanied minors from contiguous countries as well.

On Friday President Obama met with the leaders of Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala—the three countries from which most of the children are immigrating. He has asked Congress for $3.7 billion in emergency funding, though congressional leaders have weighed alternative plans. In your view, what’s the most important next step the government must take to address this crisis?

The most important first step is to provide every child at the border with an adequate hearing to determine the merits of his or her claim, as our government is obligated to do under international law. The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has estimated that 58 percent of the children arriving at the border may qualify for protection under international law. In addition, many others may qualify for other forms of relief under U.S. law. In the long term, Congress needs to pass comprehensive immigration reform, and the U.S. needs to play a positive role in addressing the root causes of gang violence in Central America.

4 comments

  1. What are the Mex­i­cans doing? The ille­gals are trav­el­ling to the U.S. on the Beast through Mex­ican ter­ri­tory, One would of thought that would of been the U.S. first line of defence, The Mex­i­cans should stop the ille­gals before tey get to the U.S. Some partner they are.

    WHEN HO

  2. Sending the chil­dren back will not solve the problem. They are just a symptom of the problem. We also need inte­rior enforce­ment. Send back the adults who are already working. Then, there will be plenty of facil­i­ties, money, and courts to take care of the kids. When we start doing that we will be on the right track.

    The real problem is that the employers of those illegal adults are the ones making the big cam­paign dona­tions. Those exploitive employers will put up a major fight if they think they are going to be forced to abide by labor laws like over­time pay, workers comp, OSHA, and so forth.

    Sending the illegal adults back where they belong would put at least 8 mil­lion Amer­ican workers back on jobs and paying taxes instead of needing to col­lect unem­ploy­ment and welfare.

    America would come out hun­dreds of BILLIONS of dol­lars ahead. Just think, 8 mil­lion fam­i­lies off of wel­fare and back to paying taxes like they used to do when America was enforcing it’s laws. That would pay for for all of this immi­gra­tion mess and leave a lot to start paying off the national debt.

  3. These “chil­dren” are people in their late teens and twen­ties. Many of them are gang mem­bers attempting to lay down “roots” here in the US. Even the Border Patrol admits that 80% are over the age of 15. Don’t believe the mass media. Our future as a country is in jeopardy.

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