Since the exponential influx of unaccompanied undocumented children hit the national news, Texas Republicans from Congress to the Texas State House have been heading to the border in droves and offering their two cents on the ongoing humanitarian crisis.
Though it is absolutely critical that we come to a solution for these children and their families, the rhetoric being used by Texas Republicans makes two things abundantly clear: that their dogged opposition to undocumented immigration and continued persistence in attacking Obama come first before the safety of these children, and that they have very little to no understanding of how immigration flows actually work.
More on the misleading and xenophobic rhetoric from Republican lawmakers below the jump.As reported by the Texas Tribune and the New York Times, these immigrant children are not flooding the country to get access to “magnets,” as these Republicans would have voters believe.
Tens of thousands of young people are fleeing their homes and putting themselves in highly vulnerable and dangerous positions to travel across Central America, and they are not doing this because of any legislation passed by the Obama administration. They are fleeing terrifying violence.
Republicans like Ted Cruz, Greg Abbott, and Jonathan Stickland aren't only using harmful rhetoric when speaking about these children, they are totally and completely wrong about the cause of this mass migration. All of them blame federal policies that they believe are too lax on undocumented minors for the growing numbers of children crossing into the country. They say the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals Policy (DACA), a celebrated milestone from 2012 which expands access for teens and young adults who are undocumented, encourages minors to come to the United States. Not only does this show that they fundamentally do not understand how DACA works (any children coming in these waves of immigration would not qualify based on DACA's set timeline), but also that finding a way to blame Obama for this humanitarian crisis is more important to them than ensuring the safety of thousands of young children who are now under our protection.
What else could be expected from a party that presented an incredibly regressive and hostile platform on immigration mere weeks ago, after their state party convention? Further, when you build voter support and momentum through the dehumanization and demonization of an entire group of people, the age of the people in question is not enough to combat the deep-seated xenophobic hatred the party has worked so hard to stoke.
Democrats from Texas have spoken out against these statements, including Congressmen Castro:
As I saw nearly two weeks ago when I visited with the children being housed at Lackland, just investing in border security will not prevent these children from fleeing their homes. This is a humanitarian issue that should also be addressed through international action. That is why I am calling on the House Foreign Affairs Committee to hold a full committee hearing so that we can understand how the United States can best work with Central American countries and Mexico to respond to this humanitarian crisis. I'm hopeful that our Texas leadership will be supportive of this effort to get to the root cause of this exodus and help find constructive solutions to this international issue.
In an Op Ed about the situation on the border and the shameless attempt by Republicans to use it for political gain, Texas State Senator Rodriguez cites reports dating back to 2009 showing an increase in violence in central American countries and a growing number of children on the move in an attempt to flee.
Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa also addressed Ted Cruz' rhetoric and that of the rest of the Republican party, saying:
Today, Ted Cruz capitalized on human suffering to score political points. His solution is to send children back to the unsafe conditions they are fleeing from. It is clear that Cruz doesn't understand the gravity of this issue. This humanitarian crisis is the result of severe poverty, rampant violence and weak governments in Central America.
These children are fleeing desperate circumstances, not seeking amnesty. Sen. Cruz and other Washington politicians need to stop throwing mud and come together to address the root causes of this international humanitarian crisis.
The expensive trips to the border and press conference photo opportunities are nothing more than that: political chess pieces in a game where the person who makes the President look the worst takes it all. Unfortunately, in the end, the undocumented minors are the ones with the most to lose.