By Deena Winter | Nebraska Watchdog
LINCOLN, Neb. – Republican U.S. Senate nominee Ben Sasse is calling on President Obama to go to Central America and make it clear the unaccompanied minors streaming north will not get amnesty.
Sasse released a campaign video on the border crisis, which he called a “horrible human tragedy.”
“President Obama, whether deliberately or not, has let this (amnesty) belief take hold. It is the reason that we have this crisis today,” Sasse said. “Let’s fix the problem. This is actually one of those places where your pen and your phone – actually, your megaphone – is needed. Use it. The American people are sick and tired of political gamesmanship. Go to Central America and stop the bleeding.”
Sasse’s call for action comes on the heels of Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández blaming the crisis on “the lack of clarity, or ambiguity, that has become the hallmark of the policies and the debates on immigration reform in the United States.”
About 57,000 unaccompanied children have been caught or turned themselves in to the U.S. Border Patrol since October, double the number from the prior period and on track to triple by the end of the fiscal year. Federal law requires the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to find a place for the children while they await deportation hearings.
At least 214 of the children have been placed with relatives or sponsors in Nebraska since October, sparking protests and prompting the governor to decry the feds’ refusal to give him information about the kids’ whereabouts and identity.
Sasse said the only questions that should matter to Americans is why this is happening and how we can stop it. He cited a U.S. El Paso Intelligence Center report that said 94 percent of the illegal immigrants believe Obama is granting amnesty and citizenship to all Central American kids.
Sasse said the common-sense solution is for Obama to go to Central America, make a major speech that makes it clear the U.S. border isn’t open.
“He needs to say to the people of Latin America, ‘The United States’ borders are not open, we are not going to have amnesty. Please, keep your babies with you, don’t break up your families, don’t load your kids onto trains,’ ” Sasse said.
As for the unaccompanied minors who’ve already made it to the U.S., Sasse said “We can figure out how to expedite their processing.”
“The real problem is the untold millions that could be coming this way in the coming weeks and months, risking the same fate as some of those who have already been lost,” he said.
Joanne Garrison, coordinator of Grand Island Public Schools’ welcome center, which helps unaccompanied migrant children register for school and assesses their English skills, said the school district stays out of the politics of illegal immigration and focuses on its obligation to educate the children who come through their doors. The welcome center sent about 50 unaccompanied Central American children to the school system last year, and expects 50 to 60 more this year.
Grand Island’s meat packing plants make it a destination for immigrant workers, and the city began seeing a surge in Central American children in 2012, the year Hispanic students began outnumbering white in the school district.
“Most of the kids are joining the parents who are already here,” Garrison said.
Generally, the parents come first, try to get jobs and support their families, and then the children join them later.
“The stories tend to be pretty similar in that it’s very hard in their country of origin. Some mention violence, some mention extreme poverty, some mention the desire to be reunited with the parent after long separation,” Garrison said. “They arrive in kind of different situations. Some might have been through a more harrowing situation to get here.”
Sasse said the “D.C.-obsessed national media” talks constantly about the politics of the border crisis – who wins and who loses – “as though any of that is what we should be talking about.”
“Meanwhile, little kids are leaving their parents every day and being handed over to human traffickers,” said Sasse, who is running for the U.S. Senate against Democrat Dave Domina and two independents, Callaway rancher Jim Jenkins and Lincoln businessman Todd Watson. The election is in November. “The stories coming from our border are just heart-rending. Children apparently tortured and occasionally murdered.”
He called on the president to act not out of political motives, but because “it’s the right thing to do.”
“Get on a plane and go solve this problem,” Sasse said.
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