Politics & Policy

A HUMANE Border Solution

(John Moore/Getty Images)
A new bill would help fix the immediate crisis and assist thousands of children.

From its beginning, our nation has faced enormous challenges. During these times, leaders who didn’t always see eye to eye came together to solve our nation’s problems. Looking at the current situation in Washington, I find myself wondering if those days have passed. I wonder if the youth of America will witness the same sort of great compromises and great results that fill their history books.

Right now, there is an urgent humanitarian crisis on our southern border. Children are risking their lives in the hands of drug cartels. Some are dying. Communities are being overrun, and government resources are being strained.

The Obama administration has admitted there is a humanitarian crisis, and that a loophole from a law passed in 2008 is a source of the problem. After identifying a problem and a cause, one would think that it would be easy for a president to propose a solution. Sadly, we do not have such a leader in the White House. Nor do we have one‎ running the Senate, for that matter. Instead of addressing the challenge at hand, President Obama and Harry Reid have chosen to take the easy way out, pander to their political base, and simply throw money at the problem.

I understand that putting forward a solution is tough. It requires effort, the ability to withstand criticism, and a willingness to compromise to get things done. It requires taking the responsibility that comes with public office seriously and putting forward solutions to difficult problems. It is about doing our jobs. This is why I have partnered with Representative Henry Cuellar (D., Texas) to put forward the HUMANE Act, which would help solve the immediate crisis on our border.

Now, some on both sides of the aisle have expressed concerns about this legislation. On the right, they have said this bill would make it easier for illegal minors to achieve legal and asylum status. That is wrong. The HUMANE Act would not change current law with regard to either claim. It would, however, make sure current law is actually enforced by speeding up court dates and the removal process for unaccompanied children. It is also worth reminding the American people that (1) there are numerous fraud-prevention measures in our current asylum laws, which the HUMANE Act would not change, and (2) more than 70 percent of those seeking asylum in the U.S. last year were ultimately not awarded status.

On the left, many claim that these children will not receive proper legal representation. Wrong again. ‎The HUMANE Act would not change current law, which requires the Department of Health and Human Services to ensure to the greatest extent practicable that legal representation is provided for these children. I have not heard many of my friends on the other side, who supported this legislation unanimously six years ago, complain about the current law in this respect over the years.

Some worry that this bill will be seen as a vehicle for comprehensive immigration reform. I in turn would ask if they have witnessed any of the dysfunction in Washington as of late. Others are concerned that there are not enough protections in this bill for the children. Yet we have added protections that do not exist under current law, such as an expedited court hearing before a judge, and — for those with credible claims — stronger safeguards to ensure that children are not released to dangerous criminals.

Now, is the HUMANE Act everything that everyone would want? By no means. It is narrowly targeted to solve a national crisis and assist thousands of children. To those who would like to see more, I would say that this is a moment to put politics aside and prove that you are serious about governing. If we can demonstrate to the American people that we can fix this problem, we can earn their trust to solve bigger issues.

— Senator John Cornyn (R., Texas) is the Republican whip.

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