The government needs to make it absolutely clear that the administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals does not apply to anyone who entered the U.S. after June 15, 2007. The current crop of border crossers will be picked up, processed and eventually removed from the U.S.
When the system works as it should -- and it's not working now because the numbers are so great -- unaccompanied minors can be held for a maximum of 72 hours by DHS while their status and health are evaluated before being transferred to the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services. If they're lucky, they may be released to relatives in the U.S. or placed in foster homes until their appointed hearing date to appear for removal proceedings. At that point, they will come before an immigration judge, without an automatic right to have a lawyer present, and will likely receive a removal or deportation order. Those subject to deportation orders are barred from entering the U.S. for 10 years, and if they try to do so illegally, they may face criminal prosecution.
The administration should be running public service ads in Guatemala and elsewhere in Central America to discourage parents from sending their children to the U.S. And immigrant advocacy groups in the U.S. need to spread the word in the immigrant community here that unaccompanied minors face tremendous dangers on their trips north and won't be allowed to stay even if they make it.
But most of all, Congress should act. False hopes and fantasies are driving this exodus. Congress needs to get to work and rewrite immigration laws to make it possible for those whose labor we need to come here legally in an orderly fashion. Doing nothing -- which is the default mode now -- won't stem the flow of illegal immigrants, and the current paralysis contributes to the crisis we're seeing on the border now.
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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