Texas political leaders recently announced an increase in funding and personnel to secure the Texas-Mexico border. This move, called a “surge,” was necessitated by a sharp increase in illegal immigration, especially by unaccompanied minors from Central America.
The surge was completely necessary. How that $1.3 million per week is going to be used is the next major issue. Obviously, the surge’s main purpose is to serve as a deterrent for illegal immigration, as well as prevent an increase in crime.
If immigrants are being turned away at the border or being returned to their original countries, the hope is that fewer and fewer individuals will attempt to cross the border. This means increasing the number of law enforcement officers manning the border, as well as an increase in equipment and supplies.
But there are other issues that must be addressed beyond increasing man power. One of the main reasons Texas leaders classified the recent increase in illegal immigration is because of the large number of unaccompanied minors making the journey.
The majority of these minors are from Central American countries, and many are trying to reconnect with families in the U.S. or are fleeing abuse.
This influx has already had a huge impact on social services in Texas. Border agents are required to turn over unaccompanied children to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services or guardians in 72 hours. Border Patrol has already apprehended 34,000 unaccompanied minors this year, and estimates project that 90,000 will be apprehended by the end of fiscal year 2014.
Texas and nearby states simply do not have the resources and square footage to provide for the basic needs of that many children, and the federal government does not have the infrastructure in place to efficiently care for or track these children once they have been released to a guardian.
It is difficult to combat illegal immigration once the individual is already in the state. With limited detention space, especially for families, illegal immigrants often only receive a notice to appear at a later court date, which are widely ignored. Others are released without bond to travel to their families in the United States with orders to appear in immigration court.
The main focus of the surge, according to Texas officials, is to help strained local law enforcement officials, reduce crime and ensure the safety of Texas residents. But the wider humanitarian crisis that is facing our state and nation cannot and should not be combated by this surge.
Ultimately, securing the border, deterring illegal immigration, providing social services to individuals awaiting deportation and deporting illegal immigrants is the federal government’s responsibility. These efforts, and the enormous costs associated with them, must be assumed by the federal government. Failing to do so represents one of the most acute domestic failures of the current administration.
Illegal immigration and an insecure border affects more than just Texas, and Texans shouldn’t have to bear the financial and physical border of this surge alone.
This opinion reflects that of the Herald-Banner editorial board. The board can be reached at email@example.com.