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June 16, 2014 3:32 PM The Children’s Exodus

By Ed Kilgore

So the exodus of unaccompanied minors cross the U.S.-Mexico border (mainly in the less-secure Rio Grande Valley area) has gotten bad enough the Vice President Joe Biden added a Guatemalan stop to a Latin America trip, partly to discuss the problem with government officials there and partly to make it known to adults that may be considering this drastic step to get their children out of the way of escalating gang violence that the kids are not eligible for the administration’s DREAM initiative delaying deportation actions against children of undocumented workers living peacefully in the U.S.

In terms of what the administration is doing with the minors whom it is capturing in large numbers, it’s hardly being indulgent:

[T]he goal — not yet being met — is to process each minor within 72 hours either to be turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement for deportation proceedings or to the Health and Human Services Department to be reunited with family members or placed in foster homes pending deportation proceedings.

Many of these kids do have adult relatives legally in the U.S. thanks to various political and humanitarian refugee exemptions provided temporarily in the past to people from Central America.

As Greg Sargent points out at the Plum Line, the timing of this emergency couldn’t be much worse for the administration:

At precisely the moment when President Obama faces a tough decision over how far to go in taking unilateral action to ease deportations, a crisis has erupted to make the politics of this a lot harder….
Republicans have used the crisis to argue that Obama’s immigration policies — in particular, his de-prioritization of the deportations of DREAMers — have encouraged more illegal immigration….
The administration is constrained from stating flatly that all of these unaccompanied migrants will be deported immediately. That’s partly because under current law unaccompanied minors must be channeled into legal proceedings that either end in deportation or reunification with family members. But it’s also because, at a time when Obama is taking heavy fire for not doing more to ease deportations, taking a harder line on deportations is politically dicey.

Regardless of how this crisis is resolved, it is sure to provide another excuse, if one were actually needed, for House Republicans to refuse to deal with immigration legislation.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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