In response the surge of Central Americans sneaking into Texas in the summer of 2014, the Obama administration launched an ad campaign in the sending countries earlier this year to stem the flow. The radio and TV spots assert that “there are no permits for the people trying to cross the border without papers” and promise “the immediate deportation of those trying to cross the border without documents.”
None of it is true. There are permits for illegal-alien minors and families. Formally known as Notices to Appear but known colloquially in Spanish as permisos, they require the aliens to present themselves to immigration authorities by a certain date, until which they have temporary legal status. That gives them time enough to travel to join their relatives and disappear into the existing illegal population. And disappear they do, since, despite the tough promises, virtually none of them are deported, immediately or otherwise.
So it should come as no surprise to read today’s AP report, which begins this way:
Hundreds of immigrant families caught illegally crossing the Mexican border told U.S. immigration agents they made the dangerous journey in part because they believed they would be permitted to stay in the United States and collect public benefits, according to internal intelligence files from the Homeland Security Department.
Not only are most just given a piece of paper and released, but even the minority who are detained are going to be let go, pursuant to a judge’s order. The AP noted that “Most of the immigrants interviewed…said reports about the release of immigrant families influenced their decision to come to the U.S.”
What’s more, they really can collect certain taxpayer-funded benefits, although not the full range. (The government will, for instance, feed their children for them on school days.)
The prospective illegal aliens in Central America aren’t stupid; they will contrast what they’re told by our government with what their relatives here and news reports tell them the government is actually doing, and act accordingly. I sent a team down to South Texas the summer before last, when the surge really got going, and this quote from one of the stories is apropos:
“We were watching CNN, and they were saying that the United States was giving opportunities to women with children,” said Patricia. “And since some neighbors of ours had come, we decided to try it.”
The number of families and minors apprehended (or rather, the number who flagged down Border Patrol agents to get their permisos) declined last summer because the Obama administration, through a combination of threats and bribes, persuaded Mexico to slow the illegal flow through its territory. (Germany’s Angela Merkel has tried but failed to get Turkey to do the same for her.) But that seems to be wearing off, because the numbers are surging upward again.
Given the disconnect between the administration’s tough talk and its actions, this new surge is no surprise.