There's no question there's a crisis. In 2011, some 4,000 unaccompanied children were caught after crossing into the United States. In 2012, the number rose to more than 13,000 children. Last year, that number hit 38,759; and already this year, the toll exceeds 52,000, with most minors coming from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.
Not all of the kids make it. Interim Hidalgo County Sheriff Eddie Guerra ticked off the sad numbers. In 2012, his department saw 19 immigrant deaths. In 2013, it found 25 bodies. "This year, we have already responded to 14 immigrant deaths," he told the panel. "The hardest to take are the deaths of children."
On July 1, angry protesters dissuaded federal officials from busing 140 detainees into Murrieta, California. No doubt supporters of "comprehensive immigration reform" want these angry individuals to be seen as the face of their opposition.
But the situation is so ugly that many conservative Republicans sound like bleeding hearts. "It's a humanitarian crisis with respect to the way our facilities are overtaxed. Last week, we had 2,000 children in a detention center built for 400 adults," Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, told me Thursday over the phone as he headed home to Corpus Christi after the hearing. Children were sleeping on floors, he said. "This is the United States. We ought to be able to do better than that."
Perry, as you may recall, got to the left of Mitt Romney during his brief run in the 2012 presidential primary. During a Florida debate, Romney criticized Perry for signing a 2001 bill that allowed undocumented students to pay reduced in-state tuition at state colleges and universities. In a primary election famous for chasing Republicans deeper to the right, Perry did not back down. "If you say that we should not educate children who have come into our state for no other reason than they've been brought there by no fault of their own," he told Romney, "I don't think you have a heart."
Perry showed oodles of sympathy for the detainees. They're victims, he said, who have been used by "vile individuals." Some Republicans want to blame the surge of border crossings on President Barack Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, but Perry made a point of blaming criminal cartels and human traffickers who cynically have convinced otherwise-law-abiding families that this is the ideal time to risk their children's lives by smuggling them across the border.