Debra J. Saunders

If you have any doubt about what a great country this is, consider the risks that others hazard just for the chance to come here illegally.

Perry also showed steel. The more Central Americans who believe that "you get here, you can stay here," he warned, the more people will come. "It will be a deluge," Perry predicted. "After El Salvador and Honduras," he added, there will be new surges from other countries.

For his part, Swalwell used the hearing to mock the notion that the surge has anything to do with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which halted deportations for some undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children. If that were the catalyst, he argued, the boom would have been bigger in 2012, when Obama announced the idea. Rampant crime has driven this wave of immigrants to the border, he said.

Good point. But I counter that Central Americans are smart enough to know that if they can pay to smuggle their children beyond the border, they've bought years for them in the United States. He doesn't disagree. Everyone knows, he said, that a child apprehended at the border will become "a low-priority removal."

During the hearing, Perry asked Swalwell point-blank whether he thinks unaccompanied minors should be sent back home. "Yes," Swalwell answered, "on a case-by-case basis."

I ask: Just what does that mean?

I think it means: Not really. Swalwell explained that if it is possible to send unaccompanied minors home without putting them in danger -- and in a way that works for their home country -- then he is on board. The United States can't just bus children south of the border. Quoth Swalwell: "Nobody has presented me with a good way to return a Guatemalan teenager to Guatemala."

Actually, the Obama White House is pushing to change the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, signed by President George W. Bush, to ease deportations hampered by the 2008 law.

Could Swalwell support this change? "I'm open to that," he answered cautiously.

The administration also wants $2 billion to speed up deportations of the unaccompanied minors Swalwell thinks are so hard to send home. Farenthold was enthusiastic. "The president basically said, 'Send them back,'" the Republican congressman told me. "I'm with him on that."

Debra J. Saunders

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