Probably the only thing that was obvious after three and a half hours of testimony during a congressional field hearing held in McAllen last week by the Homeland Security Committee, on the surge of unaccompanied minors to our region, is that this is a complex, multi-faceted problem with no easy solutions.
The barrage of questions on Thursday by the 12 committee members — many from Texas — laid proof of their differing concerns, tolerance, confusion, misconceptions and even misinformation as to what is truly going on here on our border.
Most who were questioned, as well as the questioners, articulated concerns about the health and safety for both citizens of this country and immigrants. They also discussed financial and legal restrictions. Yet it was clear that no one idea or suggestion will solve this crisis — which illustrates the failings of our nation’s immigration policy.
Simply put: Our U.S. immigration laws must be reformed. Until they are, crises such as the current one plaguing the Rio Grande Valley are inevitable.
Congress and our leaders have not done our country any favors with its lack of political courage. And given the current political climate and comments coming out of Washington, it appears that despite this epic humanitarian crisis — in which the Rio Grande Valley is Ground Zero — lawmakers appear poised to repeat their practice of finger-pointing and lamenting the fact that they, as our country’s chief legislative body, do not have the will to try to solve this problem.
Gov. Rick Perry, in his testimony to the committee, was correct in declaring that we must send the world a message that we are a nation of laws.
But because of our inability to enact new laws aimed at solving our immigration problem, we must now confront the question of what kind of message we send the world about our compassion.
Partisan politics, election-year headlines and a lack of political courage over the years have left us unprepared to deal with this crisis at this important juncture in our nation’s history.
We were filled with enormous, albeit naïve, hope that, with nearly two dozen distinguished members of Congress coming to our backyard to try to understand the current situation, that some modicum of a solution might take shape.
Instead, we witnessed the same rhetorical flurries and finger-pointing that got us here in the first place.
It was obvious, for example, that the Office of Refugee Resettlement was not in any way prepared to handle the 52,000-plus unaccompanied minors who have come recently. They had only one U.S. facility to house them and have been scrambling to find lodging ever since. But the suggestion of a solution for this aspect of the problem was elusive.
Implementation of our current policy also is lopsided. This was evident when Gov. Perry testified that there are, on average, 17 Border Patrol agents per mile from California through the western Southwest border, but only seven agents per mile from El Paso to Brownsville — where the current influx of immigrants are entering.
“I’d love to have a balanced approach,” Perry told federal lawmakers.
So would we — for the entire immigration policy.
There should not be a difference, for example, in the way that Mexican nationals are quickly repatriated, yet those coming from Central America are caught in a lengthy process that could take up to three years before they are brought before immigration courts.
By allowing some in and preventing others from entering, we not only signal a weakness to the world, but we create internal resentments among those with different ideas about immigration policy.
We must send a unified message to the world that we will uphold our laws through the might of our federal government.
Unfortunately, despite a growing chorus from citizens to fix this problem, the federal government — through Congress and the executive branch — has failed. And by all evidence emanating from Thursday’s hearing, the failures will continue. This is a moment in history when Congress must show courage.
We agree with Hidalgo County Judge Ramon Garcia who said: “Blaming others and turning this situation into a partisan political fight is not going to accomplish what we urgently need — which is a workable solution implemented through effective policy.”
McAllen Mayor Jim Darling is correct in a column he wrote in saying: “Our federal government must arrive at a responsible policy to address the situation we have now, or others like it, will continue and possible get worse.”
Texas lawmakers from both sides of the aisle realize the potential burden this has had on our state and have come together to ask the federal government for help.
The hypocrisy of Thursday’s long hearing was evident because Congress can hold a multitude of these types of hearings — all along the border — but it all comes back to what they are able to accomplish.
Unfortunately given the rhetoric and accusations, we hold little hope that it will accomplish much at all.
Daily reflect The Monitor editorial board’s majority opinion.