Tags: Exclusive Interviews | Immigration | Steve Malzberg Show | Alberto Gonzales | immigration | children | schools

Alberto Gonzales on Border Crisis: 'Just Focus on the Children'

By Todd Beamon   |   Thursday, 14 Aug 2014 08:17 PM

President Barack Obama should "just focus on the children" in addressing the border crisis — but not at the expense of circumventing Congress, former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales told Newsmax TV on Thursday.

"They're here and we have a responsibility for them once they're here," Gonzales, the dean of the Belmont University School of Law, told "The Steve Malzberg Show." He was referring to the nearly 63,000 illegal immigrant minors who have been detained at the U.S. border since Oct. 1.

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"We should give them a prompt adjudication … to make sure they're safe and return those that we can return to a safe environment," Gonzales said. "If we are not comfortable that by returning them they're going to be safe, then we should provide some kind of sanctuary here in this country.

"That way, there's a clear message to folks back in Central America that we don't have an open border, we are a nation of law," he said. "On the other hand, we obviously understand that conditions may be such that it's unsafe for the children.

"In those instances, we provide some level of sanctuary."

Obama is expected to announce his executive actions early next week. They could include granting work permits to as many as 6 million illegal immigrants and expanding deportation protections to others under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that he created by executive order in 2012.

The House of Representatives approved $694 million for the border crisis before beginning its August recess. That included legislation that could eventually deport more than 700,000 migrants who received work permits under DACA.

The Senate, which had already begun its recess, will not vote on the House-approved bill.

In his Newsmax interview, Gonzales told Malzberg that he "had a problem" with Obama "infringing upon the authority of Congress."

"I support the president in taking action, so long as it's consistent with his constitutional authority. I fully support the efforts by Congress if they believe the president is infringing upon their authority as a legislative branch — that they ought to take some kind of action.

"The president does have some level of authority in this arena," Gonzales cautioned, "and we have a problem here. I don't have a problem with the president exercising that authority, so long as he's acting within the limits of the constitution."

The administration is bracing state and local school districts for the deluge of illegal children who could be enrolling this fall.

The Education Department sent out a fact sheet on Monday saying that "all children in the United States are entitled to equal access to a public elementary and secondary education, regardless of their or their parents' actual or perceived national origin, citizenship, or immigration status."

Gonzales said that the federal government must provide funds to school districts to pay for educating the illegal immigrants, many of whom will come with psychological scars requiring trauma counseling and needing remedial help in learning English. Each child will have access to subsidized nutritional programs.

"Quite honestly, this is a federal responsibility," he told Malzberg. "For too long, the state-local governments have been asked to share the burden.

"It's incumbent upon the Congress and the president to work together and try to find a solution so that this is not an issue that falls on the shoulders of state-local governments."

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