Rep. Gutierrez decries plan to deport immigrant children

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Foto cortesía de Ken Carl

[dropcap]R[/dropcap]ep. Luis Gutierrez is against a bill aimed at restricting the rights of children captured at the U.S. border.

“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,” said Rep. Senator John Cornyn in an open letter.

Texas Reps. Cornyn and Henry Cuellar, said that it would restrict the rights of children captured at the U.S./Mexico border who are fleeing violence in Central America.

“Cornyn has led the opposition to every single immigration reform proposal he has ever seen and he is exploiting children, wrapping himself in a thin blanket of feigned compassion, and he has gotten a Democrat to stand with him,” said Gutierrez. “This is not the middle ground, this is the deportation-only agenda dressed up in sheep’s clothing. More of the same is not a solution.”

Earlier Gutierrez also criticized Rep. Sen. Mark Kirk’s remarks that the 429 unaccompanied minors from the Mexican border crisis should undergo criminal background checks.

“If any of these individuals have a criminal record in their home country, our government owes it to the American people to facilitate a sharing of records and reassure our nation that these individuals pose no threat,” said Kirk in a July 11 statement.

In the statement, Kirk, an Illinois Republican, said that the children were in the custody of the U.S. Health and Human Services Department and being held in shelters in Chicagoland and that the State Department was unable to confirm if any of the minors had a criminal record or background.

More than 57,000 youths, mostly from Central America, have crossed into the U.S. illegally since October and less than 2,000 of that number has been sent back across the border. In a statement the Department of Health and Human Service’s Administration for Children and Families Department said the agency has operated shelters in many states for many years for children who enter the U.S. without a parent. Children in the shelters stay until they are placed with a sponsor or relative while awaiting an immigration proceeding.

Immigration advocates and many Democrats, like Gutierrez and Sen. Robert Menendez, are insisting that officials uphold the protections in the 2008 law signed by President George W. Bush protecting unaccompanied youths who flee their home countries or are smuggled to the U.S. That law gave additional protections to unaccompanied migrant children from countries not adjacent to the United States, basically any country except Mexico and Canada.

Additionally, the border dispute has slowed a congressional action on President Barack Obama’s $3.7 billion emergency spending request for more immigration judges, detention facilities and other resources for the border. Of that money, 49 percent would go toward HHS to provide shelter and care for the immigrants. Currently, the administration plans to spend nearly $870 million to provide for the children, according to an HHS fact sheet.

Meanwhile immigration advocates, the Catholic Church and a growing number of Democratic lawmakers say many of the children are fleeing vicious gang violence from their home countries.

“The backbone and commitment to justice of the strongest and most generous nation in the world is trembling at the presence of 50,000 children and responding by taking away legal rights from vulnerable children. It is shameful,” said Gutierrez. “We could fortify the U.S./Mexico border like the Berlin Wall of the past and it still would not change the fact that kids are fleeing their home countries because of danger and violence.”

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