Im­mi­gra­tion cri­sis poses quandary for Democrats

Bor­der surge views may shift with pres­i­den­tial bids

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY BEN WOLF­GANG AND DAVE BOYER

Po­ten­tial 2016 Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates are show­ing di­vi­sions over how to han­dle the surge of il­le­gal im­mi­grant chil­dren, un­der­scor­ing how quickly the im­mi­gra­tion is­sue has gone from what they thought was a guar­an­teed po­lit­i­cal win­ner to an elec­toral headache.

Some Demo­cratic gov­er­nors con­sid­er­ing pres­i­den­tial bids also are hav­ing to grap­ple per­son­ally with the surge as they de­cide whether to fight or ac­cept the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s re­quests to house the chil­dren in fa­cil­i­ties within their borders.

Those within Congress, mean­while, will have to take tough votes on boost­ing spend­ing and chang­ing the law to al­low for faster de­por­ta­tions — all un­der the close scru­tiny of His­panic groups that are pre­pared to pun­ish those they deem to be work­ing against im­mi­grant rights.

Mary­land Gov. Martin O’Mal­ley sparked a feud with the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion in re­cent days when he pub­licly called on Pres­i­dent Obama not to send chil­dren back to their coun­tries of ori­gin but pri­vately urged a White House of­fi­cial not to house them at a site in Mary­land, ei­ther.

“What I said was that would not be the most invit­ing site in Mary­land,” Mr. O’Mal­ley told CNN on Wed­nes­day. “There are al­ready hun­dreds of kids al­ready lo­cated through­out Mary­land.”

For­mer Sec­re­tary of State Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton has taken a more en­force­ment-cen­tered ap­proach. She told a CNN-spon­sored town hall last month that the chil­dren “should be sent back as soon as it can be de­ter­mined who re­spon­si­ble adults in their fam­i­lies are.”

She said some chil­dren might have valid hu­man­i­tar­ian rea­sons to stay but the key was to send a sig­nal of tough en­force­ment.

“We have to send a clear mes­sage: Just be­cause your child gets across the bor­der, that doesn’t mean the child gets to stay,” she said. “So we don’t want to send a mes­sage that is con­trary to our laws or will en­cour­age more chil­dren to make that dan­ger­ous jour­ney.”

But the po­si­tions of Mrs. Clin­ton and Mr. O’Mal­ley, an­a­lysts say, merely show a snapshot in time.

Mrs. Clin­ton, Mr. O’Mal­ley and other po­ten­tial Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates such as Sen. El­iz­a­beth War­ren of Mas­sachusetts and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo likely will get other chances to re­vise and ex­pand on their po­si­tions be­fore the pri­maries and cau­cuses be­gin.

“This is­sue is not so much about their ini­tial re­ac­tion or in­stinct, but how do they ad­dress this is­sue over time. If there were sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ences there, it could be­come an is­sue,” said Mar­shall Fitz, di­rec­tor of im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy at the left-lean­ing Cen­ter for Amer­i­can Progress. “It’s go­ing to change 50 times be­tween now and then. … I think their think­ing will evolve over time. Right now, we’re right in the midst of it.”

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s re­sponse to the cri­sis has been to re­quest $3.7 bil­lion from Congress to house the chil­dren, hire more im­mi­gra­tion judges and try to speed up de­por­ta­tions.

Mr. Obama also has said he would sup­port chang­ing a 2008 law to give him power to hold and quickly de­port un­ac­com­pa­nied chil­dren from Cen­tral Amer­ica. It would give him the same author­ity he has for chil­dren from Mex­ico and Canada.

Demo­cratic lead­ers on Capi­tol Hill say they sup­port the call for ex­tra money to care for the chil­dren, but they are in­creas­ingly op­posed to chang­ing the 2008 law. They say it would just pun­ish the chil­dren.

That could cause headaches for Mr. Obama and Vice Pres­i­dent Joseph R. Bi­den, an­other po­ten­tial 2016 can­di­date who would have to back the pres­i­dent, at least pub­licly while serv­ing in his ad­min­is­tra­tion.

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