Illegal immigration has become a full blown crisis as thousands of illegal immigrants from Central America turn themselves into the Border Patrol to be processed though detention centers including Fort Sill here in Oklahoma. Meanwhile President Obama and Congress are involved in a legal stalemate. This crisis has inflamed both sides of the political divide with the Right fearing “fundamental transformation” of the country and the Left hoping for “fundamental transformation” of the country. This crisis was likely planned in advance as it has exploited the nation’s byzantine immigration laws.
Tulsa Metropolitan Ministries, a left-wing organization, sent out an e-mail on July 17th stating that they encourage changing the language in the media from using the term “illegal aliens” to “refugee children.” And then TMM wrote this:
“Children prevented from entering the border is immoral – we should take a lesson from the experience of the holocaust and accept the children. We are dealing with flesh and blood children. The humanity of the people entering is diminished by characterizing the children in terms of cost, disease, threats to our economy, etc. This approach to the problem is immoral. They are characterized as terrorist by some politicians. The moral voice needs to control the legal and political. The moral position should over-ride all other considerations. Moral change – rescue, protect, and support is the leading concern. These children are victims; not evil or threats to our country.”
But it’s not only the Left spinning this crisis to their advantage. Governor Mary Fallin has seen an opportunity in this crisis for her re-election campaign.
The Fallin campaign has a petition for Oklahomans to sign showing disapproval with the border crisis. The petition will be sent to the White House where it will likely be placed in the trash.
Conveniently enough her campaign email dated July 21st includes: “If you’d like to do even more, please consider getting involved with Governor Fallin’s reelection campaign by volunteering in our campaign. She’ll continue to put Oklahoma first and defend us against Washington bureaucrats.”
It is important to note that in 2008 then Congresswoman Mary Fallin, representing the 5th District, voted for the bill, now law, preventing minors from Central America from being immediately deported. That bill was intended to curb the practice of human trafficking and yet is is the legal basis behind this crisis.
Ray Hickman with the Tulsa Metropolitan Ministries said a rumor was circulated in Central American countries that unaccompanied minors would receive asylum if they came to the United States. Hickman said this rumor is untrue but it didn’t prevent the influx of minors from Central America.
Hickman spoke of the Metropolitan Ministries and Catholic Charities work on behalf of these illegal immigrants as, “The role of people of faith together. We believe this is a humanitarian issue.” Hickman said Catholic Charities is handling legal issues for these minors in order to prevent human trafficking. Hickman said it is important for minors not to be handed over to just anyone who shows up to claim them as family members, unfortunately that is exactly what may happen.
Deacon Kevin Sartorius, Executive Director of Catholic Charities of Tulsa said some of the legal work CC does is, “Know your rights presentation.”
Sartorius said a person who comes across the border illegally doesn’t have Miranda Rights when arrested. “We tell them this [United States] isn’t a corrupt Central American government that they are dealing with….the greatest piece of advice we give them is ‘show up for that [deportation] hearing’ because if you don’t do that they’ve [the government] have taken down your information.’” But Sartorius admits that, “some will disappear,” and not show up despite CC Tulsa’s admonition.
James Benzoni is a Des Moines, Iowa attorney specializing in immigration law. Benzoni says that about five percent of illegal immigrants fail to show up for their hearings but that is when they have an attorney and someone has already posted bond for them. Those without an attorney are much more likely to skip their deportation hearing especially if they are closer to the border. “A lot of it is working the system. If you hire a lawyer you might be able to get a work card and later you might marry an American citizen.” Benzoni said about a third of those who enter illegally do get to stay if they go through the legal process but over half are sent back.
Benzoni sees this immigration crisis from a hard-left perspective. He blames the United States for supporting regimes in Central America who have made life difficult for people living there and compares anti-immigrant sentiment today with the 19th Century “Know Nothing Party” or the Klu Klux Klan. “Today, we are just ‘nicer’ in our prejudices.”
Benzoni says the country needs immigrants. In Iowa he says too few young people want to stay on the family farm and immigrants fill that void left by those native born Americans who seek opportunities elsewhere. “I grew up on a farm in upstate New York. There were 10 of us. None of us are still on the farm.”
Sheryl Kaufman Communications Director for Congressman James Bridenstine’s Washington office says that as of July 22nd three children have been released in Oklahoma from Fort Sill. Texas however, has seen 142 minors come into their state after being released from Ft. Sill. Kaufman said that all the minors at Ft. Sill are between the ages of 12-17. A total number of 1,087 have been released so far from Ft. Sill to 42 states plus the District of Columbia. The criteria set by Heath and Human Services (HHS) for releasing these kids is vague. According to Kaufman, HHS states these minors must have some relationship with the people taking them in until they turn 18. Sponsors do not have to be a relative, they could be friends or even “friends of friends.”
Unaccompanied minors who enter the country illegally can apply for a Special Immigration Juvenile Visa. Kevin Sartorius said Catholic Charities Tulsa has helped get six of these special visas issued for minors in the past three years. According to Sartorius CC of Tulsa’s role in this crisis is limited as CC Tulsa covers only the eastern third of the state.
When asked why all of a sudden these minors started showing up in the United States Kevin Sartorius said he didn’t know why this is happening. “Catholic Charities can’t solve that problem.”
Sheryl Kaufman said things are in a stalemate right now as the Democrat controlled Senate has left for the August recess and the House is waiting to vote on some kind of immigration legislation to address this crisis. Kaufman said it is doubtful the Senate would be called into a special session to vote on anything passed by the House and then have President Obama sign it.
Joseph Cervantes is an immigration attorney based in Omaha, Nebraska. I know Joe from college and later as a roommate when I was living in Annandale, Virginia outside of Washington, D.C. Joe has the kind mind that can understand and navigate byzantine things like United States immigration law.
Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) is responsible for rounding up illegal immigrants in the interior of the country: think a raid of a Kansas meat-packing plant or any restaurant be it in Tulsa or elsewhere in the county he explains.
The Border Patrol, not ICE, pick up people at the border. ICE rounds up illegals who then go before the Executive Office of Immigration Review or EOIR. ICE cannot deport someone unless EOIR gives ICE permission. EOIR is under the umbrella of President Obama. “He can put ICE on ice. They [ICE] agents are pissed off because he’s [Obama] not letting them do their job.” Cervantes says there are some mandatory deportations for those illegal immigrants who are convicted of crimes like drug trafficking.
He says the process of deportation can take up to several years. In the mean time the illegal alien can find work, send money home, or perhaps find an American spouse (which cancels the deportation) all the while taking advantage of American social services such as hospitals and housing. As the years go by the immigration laws may change in the illegal’s favor.
Cervantes insists that many, if not most, of these young men from Central America are coming here as refugees. “I’ve met a number of these young guys. They are running for their lives because they don’t want to be in gangs.” El Salvador and Honduras have a gang problem. The two gangs in Central America MS 13 and a group calling itself “The 18th Street Gang” recruit young men into their ranks under threat of death.
Cervantes says that some groups can enter the United States seeking asylum because they fit into certain groups. Cubans fleeing Fidel Castro’s reign are granted asylum as witnessed in the 1980 Muriel Boat Lift. Homosexuals from Muslim countries are another group that can seek asylum in the United States. Cervantes tells me that if young men from Central America were to be granted asylum due to the gang problem in their countries the United States would receive an exodus of young men from Central America. And he warns that not all of these men are genuine refugees, some are gang members themselves who can be dangerous to the general population.
When asked if he believes this crisis is deliberate he says, “Absolutely! Barack Obama is exploiting this forcing this issue to come to a head.” And this has had an impact on his business.
The Obama administration’s deliberate reluctance to enforce immigration laws during this crisis has had unintended consequences for immigration attorneys like Cervantes who tells me that because immigration laws are not being enforced his business has dried up considerably. “Nobody needs an immigration lawyer when the feds aren’t enforcing the immigration laws.”
Cervantes says the immigration system is a mess and that it’s deliberate. “The politicians enact tough immigration laws they don’t intend to enforce.”