Over the past month, the crisis at the border has become over politicized that no solution has been presented by Republicans or president Obama. While the president has turned his back on the refugee children by asking for funds to expedite their removal, Republicans, particularly Arizona Republicans, have resorted to shortsighted politics and have even called for Deferred Action for Dreamers to end.
Just this weekend Sen. McCain (R-Ariz.) said, “the best way to [end this crisis] is to send plane loads of people… back to their country.” Such rhetoric ignores that the majority of these “people” are children escaping violence and potentially death.
For me, the stories of the children strikes my heart: I crossed the Arizona desert at the age of 11 with my mom and baby brother. My teenage brother and sisters migrated on their own to be able to work and search for a better life.
My mother fled domestic abuse, exacerbated by the police who failed to protect her and my baby brother: the only way to make my family safe was to put miles of desert and a national boundary between them and my abusive father.
What is occurring at the border is a humanitarian crisis that has occurred before: in the 1960‘s thousands of Cuban children arrived alone in the U.S. What is now known as Operation Pedro Pan was the largest recorded exodus of unaccompanied minors in the Western Hemisphere. Most of the children were allowed to stay.
The new bills from McCain and Salmon are political stunts, but they make a grim point: Republicans rather send children back into war zone conditions than fix our broken immigration system that can respond to influxes of refugees during times of crisis.
Due to the passage of a 2008 bill to crack down on child sex trafficking, President Bush signed into law protections for immigrants from countries like Honduras, with record-high murder rates and gangs that prey on children for sex trafficking and gang recruitment. The bill was so uncontroversial then that all Republicans voted for it.
Meanwhile, Obama continues to appease Republicans instead of leading in the right direction. He has declared this is a humanitarian crisis, yet continues to call for expedited deportations of the children, just like he has deported more than 2 million immigrants since he took office. Reality is that many of these children qualify for humanitarian visas or other types of relief under the 2008 and other legislation.
While I am certain most Arizona Republicans sympathize with Dreamers and the refugee children, their actions and narrative only show they rather take sides with people like those terrorizing a bus of children in Murrieta and Oracle.
Salmon and Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) have even gone as far as asking Obama to end DACA; the deportation relief that has protected me and my little brother. They argue that the program is to blame for the crisis, but never acknowledge the root case: the violence children are escaping.
Our country faces two ongoing crises: the record of refugee children crossing the border and 11 million undocumented immigrants who are contributing to our country but still in the shadows. Both must be addressed. There’s no easy answer to the crisis at the border or any tough issue for that matter; but it’s this reason our country needs leaders who can respond with solutions, not political games.
Andiola is co-director of the DREAM Action Coalition and former president of the Arizona Dream Act Coalition.