Texas lawmakers have demanded that President Barack Obama finally secure the border, saying military bases are being overwhelmed as they house thousands of illegal immigrant children pouring into the United States every month.
"Our military bases are turning into refugee camps," said House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul, a Texas Republican, according to Fox News
. "I never thought I'd see this in the United States of America."
Democratic lawmakers say thousands of the children are "bona fide refugees" fleeing dangerous situation in their own counties and should be protected by the United States under international law.
Ten thousand children, mainly from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, and the same number traveling together in families, cross the border illegally from Mexico into south the U.S. every month, The Washington Times
During a Homeland Security Committee field hearing in McAllen, Texas, attended by Texas Gov. Rick Perry, McCaul said that government statistics show 70 percent of the alien children risk life and limb to get into the United States illegally because they believe they will be allowed to stay.
"The border between the U.S. and Mexico is less secure than at any point in the recent past," Perry told the field hearing, according to the Times. "Secure this border, Mr. president. Finally, address this issue and secure this border."
The surge of immigrants is creating a humanitarian crisis as the government seeks to feed and house illegal immigrant minors awaiting immigration proceedings.
A loophole in current immigration laws allows children from Central American countries to be processed and then handed over to relatives in the United States before being deported while children from Mexican can be sent back immediately.
The undocumented aliens are being kept in some government facilities, including Fort Sill in Oklahoma and Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, according to Fox News.
McCaul slammed the Obama administration for not being prepared to deal with the crisis. "This has left state and local officials to fill the void," he said.
He blamed the White House for easing restrictions on illegal immigrants, especially children from Central America, while saying that Obama's threat to use his executive power on immigration reform "could cause it to be worse," according to Fox News.
McCaul and Perry called for undocumented children to be deported immediately instead of being allowed to stay in the country for processing, and then vanishing into the American heartland, even though they are supposed to report to immigration officials within a couple of weeks.
Perry has called for the deployment of 1,000 Texas National Guard troops
to assist with immigration enforcement while more U.S. Border Patrol agents are trained.
He also requested every illegal entrant be "medically screened to ensure their health and [protect] the health of our citizens," while urging the government "to put an adequate number of Border Patrol agents on the ground permanently."
Perry recently announced that the Lone Star State planned to spend a $1.3 million a week to send state agents from the Department of Public Safety to help police the border, according to Fox News. "We have been fulfilling a federal responsibility," said the governor.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican, said
Border Patrol agents had told GOP and Democratic lawmakers during their field trip that "the best way to stop this crisis is through deterrence," The Washington Times reported.
"They were very clear that deterrence must be the focus and there must be an end to the so-called catch-and-release policy."
Three House Democrats who accompanied Goodlatte said that many of the immigrant children have made the border crossing out of fear for their lives due to the violence in their home countries.
"We learned many thousands of these children are bona fide refugees fleeing dangerous situations. They are deserving of protection under international and domestic law," Reps. Joe Garcia of Florida, Zoe Lofgren of California and Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas said in a joint statement, according to the Times.
However, Perry and McCaul said the allowing migrant children to remain in the country encourages more to make the dangerous trip from Central American countries to the border.
"Allowing them to remain here will only encourage the next group of individuals to undertake this very dangerous" journey, Perry said.
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