At a Senate hearing this week an Obama Administration official said that nine out of 10 unaccompanied alien children (UACs) who crossed the border illegally during the border surge were placed with family members or friends in the United States. The vast majority of these minors were never eligible for placement, however, because the law Obama used to shield them from deportation defines a UAC as an illegal-alien minor without a parent or legal guardian in the U.S. These alien minors could have quickly deported if not for Obama’s purposeful misreading of the law and the complicity of Members of Congress who refuse to fully use the power of the purse to stop him.
In his opening statement for the hearing Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, said “Pursuant to the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 (TVPRA)…children from noncontiguous countries must be transferred to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement [ORR] within 72 hours of apprehension and cannot be immediately transferred back to their home countries.” Sen. Johnson is citing the Administration’s interpretation of TVPRA here rather than citing the law. In reality, TVPRA only mandates the transfer if the minor qualifies as a UAC.
Testimony by Joseph Langlois, the Associate Director of the Refugee, Asylum and International Operations Directorate within USCIS, should have served as a wake-up call for Senators. He actually cited the correct definition. He said, “An unaccompanied child [as defined in TVPRA] is a child who: (1) has no lawful immigration status in the United States; (2) has not attained 18 years of age; and (3) with respect to whom there is no parent or legal guardian in the United States, or no parent or legal guardian in the United States available to provide care and physical custody.” Unfortunately none of the Senators asked him why Administration policies purposefully ignored this definition.
The committee also heard from ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations Assistant Director of Field Operations Philip Miller, who explained how Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agents handle encounters with alien minors. He said: “When CBP encounters a child attempting to enter the United States without permission, CBP begins the interview process to determine the child’s status, reviews available documentation, and determines if the child is accompanied by a parent or legal guardian…During this process, CBP also screens the minor for any human trafficking indicators and any claim of credible fear.”
Miller did not mention that CBP also asks whether the minor has parents or other family in the U.S. That’s critical information for ORR, the agency that takes custody of minors who make “credible fear” claims.
Mark Greenberg, Acting Assistant Secretary of HHS, told the committee his agency placed six out of 10 UACs with at least one parent who was already living in the U.S. Another three out of 10 UACs were placed with other family members or friends of family. Greenberg did not specify whether the receiving family members were legally present but, then again, ORR never asks that question when handing over a child.
This is the deception that continues today. The Obama Administration purposely categorizes alien minors as UACs knowing they are not eligible for that status under TVPRA. It is important to note that UAC status has advantages unavailable to other alien minors. Both are considered subject to removal but the application for asylum -- through the courts or directly from USCIS – is facilitated for UACs. Plus UACs can pursue Special Immigrant Juvenile status, a fast-track to citizenship. In the end, very few are deported. As Miller told the committee, ICE has removed only about six percent of 111,000 UACs since fiscal year 2012.
It is clear that Republican congressional leaders are complicit in this deception. They gripe about the fact that few border surge aliens are repatriated but have never taken the steps necessary to block Obama’s non-deportation policies.
When President Obama requested border surge funding last summer, House Republicans added language to a supplemental spending bill that would have forced the Administration to deport alien minors not eligible for UAC status. They also added language to defund the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program – the amnesty largely responsible for the surge. But Senate Republicans caved and no legislation passed.
With the new fiscal year looming, Republicans could have used a short-term continuing resolution to force surge-alien deportations and block the DACA amnesty. But they punted and rushed home to campaign for re-election. Then in December and again early this year, Republican refused to fully use the power of the purse to force Obama’s hand. DHS is now funded through the end of the fiscal year so Obama can continue to shield deportable surge aliens. Their numbers could reach 127,000 this year, according to Administration estimates.
A House subcommittee today is marking up the FY ’16 DHS spending bill. Will Republicans really use the power of the purse to stop Obama this time? Or will they capitulate and complain as they have in the past?
Updated: Wed, Oct 11th 2017 @ 3:22pm EDT