The influx of unaccompanied children crossing the border illegally and surrendering themselves to border patrol agents—more than 50,000 have reportedly crossed since October, three times the number in 2011—has turned the border into a political lightning rod.
Migration to America, illegal or otherwise, is relatively constant. During the recession, as job opportunities decreased so did immigration. In the meantime President Obama ramped up deportations. Before redeploying Department of Homeland Security (DHS) assets closer to the border, border patrolling involved document checkpoints as far as a hundred miles from the border. Since his re-election, the president’s made a half-hearted attempt to negotiate immigration reform with Congress. The process was loaded with giveaways to build legislative support but ultimately died anyway, just as the process eight years ago during the tail end of the Bush administration died too, that time with the help of then-Senator Obama.
Reports indicate the increase in children crossing the border, many coming from Central America, has to do with rumors there that unaccompanied minors that make it across the border can stay—the legal process to remove them often takes years but it does not look like the law is being changed anytime soon to allow them to stay. Nevertheless, the security and economic situation in Central America is getting progressively worse—in part thanks to the U.S.’s aggressive war on drug policies as well as a hundred and fifty years of off-again on-again intervention in the region.
The influx has attracted pro- and anti-immigration protesters in Murietta, California, where the feds have been busing the children for detention and processing. President Obama has used it as cover to ask for $3 billion in funding, even though what’s happening is something the Department of Homeland Security ought to be able to manage given the funding and resources they already have. Jesse Jackson wants to use the fact that the president is looking for that kind of money to argue Obama should be spending that kind of money on Chicago too (because Chicago has a crime problem). Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, formerly President Obama’s chief of staff, joined in. Unlike Jackson he won’t blame Obama but did blame Congress for not spending money on Chicago (seriously).
In the midst of this all comes Glenn Beck and his plan to send truckloads of water, food, clothing, and toys to the children at the border who “through no fault of their own are caught in political crossfire.” The conservative television host insists people have to keep putting pressure on DC to stop the “lawlessness” at the border but that his viewers should also help. “We have to be active in the political game and we must open our hearts,” he said. It shouldn’t be that surprising that faced with the suffering of humans a human would act, well, human.
Yet President Obama refused to go to the border to see the problem for himself—calling it a photo opportunity, as if he’s never taken advantage of one—and Beck appears to be the only prominent figure, left or right, interested enough in the crisis at the border to do something himself and not just use it as a political opportunity to push for his preferred policy solutions. It shouldn’t surprise anyone who’s paid attention to Beck over the years. Conservatives concerned about illegal immigration aren’t all frothing-at-the-mouth nationalists like the ones who showed up in Murietta. Beck’s heart comment in fact mirrors Jeb Bush’s recent comments on why Republicans need to soften up on illegal immigration—actual people are involved in the problem and a political stance based on “them’s the breaks” isn’t a winner at the polls nor a foundation for sound policy. Supporting limited government means supporting government policies that allow humans to flourish. Demanding tougher immigration rules and that the government hunt down and forcibly remove people who took the risk and made the sacrifices necessary to cross the border illegally—a misdemeanor—and try to start a new life here has nothing to do with limited government.
Meanwhile at Breitbart John Nolte argues that Glenn Beck is wrong, his acts of charity could be exploited by drug smugglers and that because the children face a risk of sexual assault during their trek the compassionate thing to do would be “to ensure you’re not doing anything that might encourage more parents to send their unaccompanied children.” Given what Obama’s policies have done to this economy in the last six years, and what Bush did before him, that there’s still an interest in migrating to the U.S., illegally or otherwise, speaks volume to how much freer and wealthier we are than most of the rest of the world. As long as this is the land of opportunity and the home of the free, people seeking opportunity and freedom will keep wanting to come here. The compassionat act is to allow them.