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Rick Perry on Child Refugees: Deport ‘Em All

by Published on
Rick Perry at a press conference in Weslaco.
Office of the Governor
Rick Perry at a press conference in Weslaco

Rick Perry has a plan for the thousands of refugee children streaming across the border from Mexico and Central America: Deport them at once. At a congressional hearing in McAllen today, the governor did his best to sound compassionate while calling on Congress and President Obama to further militarize the border and enact mass deportations of children despite laws and rights protecting refugees and asylum-seekers.

“People think allowing them to stay in the U.S. is doing them a favor,” he said. “It is not. Allowing them to remain here will only encourage the next group of individuals.”
Perry downplayed the deteriorating situation in Honduras (presidential coup in 2009, homicide capital of the world), Guatemala and El Salvador—the source of most of the unaccompanied minors—instead blaming Obama and drug cartels for the exodus of kids.  And he nodded, ever so slightly, at some of the wilder notions of what’s driving the surge in child refugees.

“I truly believe this is manufactured to some degree by the drug cartels,” Perry said.

He went on to suggest that U.S. policy toward the influx of unaccompanied minors should be a response to the drug cartels’ “change in tactics.”

As with many things border- and drug war-related, Perry’s glib solutions had a perverse, ironic logic. By most published accounts, including hundreds of interviews with unaccompanied minors conducted by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the child refugees are fleeing abuse and extreme violence, much of it cartel-related, in their home countries. (Many of them, it’s important to note, are seeking asylum in countries other than the U.S.; according to the UN, Mexico and more stable Central American nations registered a 435 percent increase in asylum claims from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras between 2009 and 2012.) Is the best way to fight the cartels to deport kids back to the cartel-plagued communities they just fled?

Experts contend that deporting them back to their homes could lead to certain death or conscription by the cartels. “This expedited deportation thing will kill children,” said Amy Thompson, a social work Ph.D. student at the University of Texas who authored a 2008 report on unaccompanied minors. “Children will die because of this.”

Thompson said that U.S. policy on how to treat unaccompanied minors largely takes a law enforcement approach that emphasizes deportation and not the safe repatriation of kids following child welfare standards. The U.S. does little to ensure that when children are sent home that their return is coordinated and safe.

Still, minors from countries other than Mexico have some extra protections under the 2008 reauthorization of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. Today, congressmen at the hearing suggested that the law needed to be overhauled by making it easier to deport the Central American kids without looking closely at their situation. Children, some as young as four or five, would have to convince border agents that they deserve to have a chance to stay. Such a change would be along the lines of what Obama is asking from Congress. Gutting it would mean reversing decades of work by child welfare advocates to secure additional consideration for the most vulnerable immigrants.

But Republicans at the committee hearing today went even further, trying to conflate the child refugee crisis with a larger narrative about sealing the borders from terrorists and cartels.

Perry struck what might be termed a “si se puede!” (yes we can) tone, repeatedly telling the committee that he “truly believes” the border can be sealed.

“You can secure the border,” Perry said. ” We can do this…We’ve got the resources.”

That line was echoed by other Texans on the committee, including chairman Michael McCaul (R-Austin), who said, “Now’s the time to finally secure the border.”

No matter that apprehensions of those crossing illegally are at historic lows or that refugees are a protected class different from immigrants.

Immigrant advocates and some Democrats on the committee tried to make that distinction.

“These children have been forcibly displaced,” said Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Houston). “A massive deportation or detention policy for children is not a humane thing to do.”

But Perry’s solution has a seductive simplicity. The talisman of sealing the border—just like winning the War on Drugs or defeating terrorism—is so powerful because it can never be accomplished; the militaristic tools to achieve the elusive 100-percent security often exacerbate the problem; and every failure to achieve the goal only leads to a doubling-down. Even a child can understand that.

Forrest Wilder, a native of Wimberley, Texas, is associate editor of the Observer. Forrest specializes in environmental reporting and runs the “Forrest for the Trees” blog. Forrest has appeared on Democracy Now!, The Rachel Maddow Show and numerous NPR stations. His work has been mentioned by The New York Times, the Washington Post, the New Yorker, Time magazine and many other state and national publications. Other than filing voluminous open records requests, Forrest enjoys fishing, kayaking, gardening and beer-league softball. He holds a bachelor's degree in anthropology from the University of Texas at Austin.

  • 1bimbo

    what about nigerian children, syrian children, afghani children.. all victims of violent nations with tyrannical corrupt leaders.. should the US house all the world’s children from other countries festering in corruption, violence, poverty and socialism? if so, watch our country transform into a nation festering in corruption violence, poverty and socialism from sea to shining sea.. happy independence day, america!!

    • PositivelyProgressive

      The issues you raise merit consideration, but your suggestion that our country will “transform into a nation festering in corruption violence, poverty and socialism from sea to shining sea” is absurd. To my knowledge, there is no urgent humanitarian crisis involving an influx of children from Nigeria, Syria, or Afghanistan…the problem to solve is the one we confront, not the imaginary one you wish to use as an excuse to wash our hands of the real one.

      • 1bimbo

        the ‘problem to solve’ is out of control illegal immigration disproportionately favoring one country.. the hundreds of children kidnapped by boko haram don’t consider themselves ‘imaginary’.. failed border control and amnesty propaganda is no good ‘excuse’ to wash your hands of rule of law..

        • PositivelyProgressive

          Nice try, Bimbo, but the children kidnapped by Boko Haram are not slipping into the U.S. The kidnappings are horrible, but utterly unrelated to our border security; your argument is a non sequitur. The first problem to solve may be elimination of the self-satisfied smugness and sense of entitlement of amoral trolls like you.

        • ccaffrey

          The children from Central America are children escaping INTO THE ARMS OF BORDER PATROL. They are not trying to bypass them! If you’d read a little deeper into our history, you’d also find that we as a country have more than a little culpability in the horrific conditions that now exist in many of those Central American countries, including sending weapons, money, and special “operatives” to train guerilla groups with the intention of at least overthrowing if not assassinating duly elected leaders of some of those countries if we didn’t like them,.or to seat someone who would sell out their people to benefit American corporations.(read up on United Fruit Company). We have PLENTY of blood on our hands (and a lot of coke up American noses) in creating the hell that many of these children are trying to escape from. At least 5 of the children we’ve shipped back are confirmed dead. One teenage boy didn’t make it 5 hours before they killed him. Lest you think this is all directed at one political party, it’s not. Under NAFTA the President of Mexico (our good bud) stole public land that had been set aside for use by small family farmers and turned it over to American agribusiness, leaving these families with nothing, no way to feed their families or maintain the modest incomes they made from selling from their farms. Where exactly were they supposed to go? NAFTA worked SO well for them. We always love to think of our own history as so heroic and humble. Escaping famine or religious or political persecution, we make our way to the New World full of peaceful and benign Bullhockey. We enslaved people from one continent, kidnapped them and treated them worse than livestock. (And there’s an armed contingency that thinks of those as the “slory days”). We benignly callled ourselves “settlers” as we moved westward. In a period of 10 years we wiped out 60 MILLION buffalo, for commerce and just for sport, leaving rotting carcasses everywhere. It also served to starve the native peoples (uh, savages to us, rather than citizens of that land for thousands of years defending their homeland). We then took the remnants of those people and herded them onto plots of land (whose boundaries changed depending on what we found there we wanted).We act all proprietary about Texas and all the southwestern states when it comes to immigration and borders when almost that entire land area and up through California WAS once part of Mexico. (I talked with a young Latino man not too long ago whose family had lived on the same land in southern AZ for 7 generations; yet he gets routinely stopped and asked for his papers. His response to me, “We didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us!”). We need to get OVER this self-righteousness and sense that we exist independent of the results of our actions around the world. Don’t even get me started on our invasion of Iraq, the puppet government, and the rise of Isis. These children have made a long and very dangerous passage looking for safe harbor. We could make a great positive impact in these young ones’ lives for less than what the Koch brothers are spending on ONE Senate race, or a fraction of what one corporation is hiding offseas because they don’t want to pay taxes. We have a chance to actually live up to what we claim we are. NO frightened child should be met by a mob of angry screaming adults. It’s not only immoral…it’s downright un-American, one can hope.

          • 1bimbo

            i’m not sure what looney liberal ‘educator’ brainwashed you to h8 america, but you need to go live in one of those other countries for a little while and you’ll figure out quick why america is supposed to be the leader in the world..i am thankful for the ‘angry screaming adults’ because those are the patriots who will help us restore america.. illegals need to know that they can’t come from a lawless country and spread their lawlessness to the USA

          • ccaffrey

            It’s precisely because I love my country that I believe it’s necessary to look at ALL of our history and actions honestly and to admit our part where we have harmed others. The Constitution was set up for us “regular citizens” to weigh in to correct our country when we feel she is off course or needs to make amends. Not sure which “other countries” you are referring to, but it’s wise to remember that a lot of those countries have THOUSANDS of years of history as nations, not just a couple hundred years. When we start acting like rich spoiled teenage brats who think they can do and take what we want and not have any consequences , yes, I’m going to call us out on that. .And when we show great acts of compassion and support democracy elsewhere in the world I swell with pride. We’ve got a lot of frightened traumatized children at our door looking for help, sent off on a dangerous voyage by desperate parents to a land far away from home. Yes, the way we treat them speaks a LOT about our values, whether we live them or just talk about them. The “looney liberal ‘educator” who “brainwashed” me (but not to hate America, just to be honest about her and corrective of her) ? Honestly, that would have to be the teachings of Jesus, particularly coming from 3 generations of ministers. And yes, he was pretty radical.when it came to how we should treat our neighbor, and particularly children.

          • 1bimbo

            jesus didn’t preach for you to worship the government which is what you on the left do.. how you treat your neighbor is a personal act not something defined by government policy.. it’s obvious you have no respect for rule of law, you are content with open borders and you have no allegiance to the USA, your allegiance lies in how much you can try to make the US government and taxpayers pony up the dough to condone the lawless acts of people who are not citizens.. i think those parents from central america should be brought up on abuse and neglect charges.. they are putting their children in harms way in the name of the all mighty dollar.. they don’t care what happens to their kids, they just want to come to this country and leech off taxpayers

          • ccaffrey

            Wow. Seldom have I found someone who got absolutely everything wrong about one of my posts! Actually, Jesus, the New Testament and also much of the Old Testament speak a great deal about how nations shall be judged and much of that was directed at how we treat the stranger and “the least of these”. Some of his harshest judgements were leveled at those who would harm or not care for children! Jesus absolutely took on the power structures of his day, he just wouldn’t fall into Rome’s traps, but he took on the main power structure of the Jewish people in a big way. Jesus’ parables were ALWAYS about more than individual behavior, although he regularly challenge that as well. His parable of the Good Samaritan was very much about how we treat the “other” among us. Takes no great sacrifice to look after your own. That being said I have to really express my dismay that you would suggest charging these childrens’ parents with child abuse and neglect?! Would you also have pursued the same charges against the parents who sent their children off with strangers to escape Nazi Germany in the hopes they could save their children’s lives? Not so different. This hatred is what is killing our country. I ask that you look very carefully at WHO is promoting that the most and who might benefit from our attention being misdirected.

          • 1bimbo

            exaggerate much? central america is not nazi germany. if you spent a fraction of the energy you spent trying to lecture anyone about how to be a ‘good samaritan’ as you would volunteering, donating and working in your own community, your world and mine would be a much better place

          • ccaffrey

            I never said that Central America was Nazi Germany…my point was that the decision to send your children away to try and save them from being murdered, or raped or enslaved is a heart-wrenching choice for any mother in any time or place to have to make. So, no, I don’t think I exaggerate a parent’s anguish then or now. My comment was in response to your suggestion that we ought to inflict further anguish onto the parents in Central America by charging them with child abuse or neglect. After enough people accusing me of being an America-hating, libtard communist, I occasionally like to correct the record of the values informing my opinions. Your assumption that I don’t volunteer and work in my community is uninformed, but I do agree with you that working together in our communities to solve problems, and getting to know each other and understand different perspectives without resorting to stereotypes would make the world a much better place. We have many critical problems facing us all. I hope you have a good day.

    • Jeff Wagner

      They’re escaping violence. It’s too bad you’re too ignorant to have understood that part.

    • Norm Cooper

      “if so, watch our country transform into a nation festering in corruption, violence, poverty and socialism from sea to shining sea,” Bimbo where have you been? Your reference to socialism is bogus. This country has all these attributes your naming. Political offices are now going to the highest bidder, guns everywhere, poverty abounds while the rich get richer, and the tea-baggers along with their para-military off-shoots represent the latest version of the neo-nazis. Remember when you build that wall to keep others out, it can (and will) be used to keep you in.

      • 1bimbo

        wake up.. you’re foolishness is destroying america.. then again, i now believe that’s the goal of the donkey party

    • Marty B.

      Bimbo (good moniker anyway) go live in one of those countries for a while and experience first-hand what it’s like. You’d change your silly tune in a heartbeat. Yes, the US was created, and should continue to serve, as a haven for people persecuted and suffering from “violence and poverty”. That was our initial “mission statement” if I recall my history correctly, and if I understand correctly what the Statue of Liberty is all about. Anyway – where did your ancestors come from, and WHY did they come? Want to share that? Or did you very conveniently forget?

      • 1bimbo

        why don’t you visit the 5th ward in houston, west detroit, east LA or englewood in chicago.. our own country is bleeding from within and you advocate for our poor to fester while violating rule of law in immigration for political points.. you failed.. democrats are finished

      • AsleepNoMore

        It is no accident that we placed the Statue of Liberty, with her welcoming message, next to Ellis Island – the point of entry and screening facility for LEGAL immigration.

  • Jeff Wagner

    And Rick Perry calls himself a Christian? Jesus would weep.

  • omniohl

    Perry is soulless, heartless and worthless!

    • Marty B.

      And that’s putting it very mildly.

  • bill holston

    our agency provides legal services for these children, as we have for over 10 years. The children in fact come from all over the world. Just last year we helped a young girl from Eritrea escape the violence plaguing her country.

    • 1bimbo

      meanwhile forget about the children in houston’s 5th ward, east LA, detroit, chicago and new york city.. let’s just pour these illegals right on top of them.. problem solved

      • Walter Goerlitz

        The up side of this is the gang wars will increase. Blacks ad Hispanics war with each other in California constantly. Sadly the blacks have lost some of their feral nature since becoming welfare pimps.
        Maybe this could help.
        Lots of dead on both sides sounds like a win win!.

  • Walter Goerlitz

    He is correct. Allowing these feral undereducated parasites into the country only helps the socialist democratic party and weakens America.