A bipartisan group of 42 senators called on President Obama to use his bully pulpit to clarify U.S. immigration and deportation policies and counter misinformation encouraging children and families in Central America to risk their lives by crossing into the country and overloading border patrol facilities.
Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., penned the letter to Obama, and circulated it among colleagues. They said many of the children crossing the border from Central America are being lured to the United States by false advertising and human smugglers telling them they will be granted automatic “permisos” and be allowed to stay indefinitely.
“We urge you to use the resources at your disposal to personally make clear those at your disposal to personally make clear to those seeking entry to the U.S. illicitly that they will not receive special treatment when it comes to enforcing our immigration laws,” the senators wrote.
They also said the White House needs to do more to tell leaders in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to help dispel the misinformation and take action against those spreading it.
Feinstein said she supports Obama's 2012 executive action allowing hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children to remain in the country and to work legally and obtain driver's licenses and other legal benefits. But she stressed that it only applies to immigrants who have been in the U.S. since 2007 and were at least 16 in 2012.
Many Republicans argue that that executive order, as well as other Obama administration immigration policies, created the current crisis at the border. U.S. border patrol agents have already apprehended 50,000 unattended minors trying to cross into the country and expect that figure to rise to 90,000 by the fall.
On Wednesday the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing titled “An Administration-Made Disaster: The South Texas Border Surge of Unaccompanied Alien Minors.”
Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., who chairs the panel, pointed to a May intelligence report from Rio Grande Valley border officials saying 95 percent of migrants interviewed said they believe a new U.S. law would give women traveling with minors and unaccompanied minors a free pass into the U.S.
“Word has gotten out that, once encountered by Border Patrol agents and processed, thanks to this administration’s lax enforcement policies, one will likely never be removed,” Goodlatte said.
The strange-bedfellow group of senators who signed the Feinstein-Flake letter ranged from Sens. Al Franken, D-Minn., and Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., to Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., and John McCain, R-Ariz.
Nine Democratic senators signed it, compared to 33 Republicans.