A Louisiana congressman in a tight race in November wants to quickly deport migrants who have been apprehended at the southern United States border, many of whom fled their home countries in Central America due to violence. Referring to a co-sponsored bill he proposed in July on the Laura Ingraham Show, Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) said Tuesday that it would be “compassionate” to deport these migrants as quickly as possible because the unaccompanied kids who crossed the border “should be at home” with their families, even as a growing body of research suggests that children are fleeing violence and being returned to dangerous situations in their home country.
When Ingraham asked Cassidy how he would handle border crossers, he advocated a quick legal proceeding, followed by deportation “no matter their country of origin.” His bill would require the mandatory detention of migrant children and place children who do not agree to voluntarily depart “in a streamlined removal process and held at the border.” He also hit President Obama for taking executive action in 2012 to grant temporary work authorization and deportation reprieve to some immigrants through the program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) — a program he alleged resulted in the “crisis,” or flood of migrant children coming into the country.
INGRAHAM: As far as the tens of thousands of people, teens, intact families who have crossed the border, what do you propose we do with them now?
CASSIDY: Sen. Vitter and I proposed a law where you would process them — I forget the details off the top of my head — but you would process them within two to three weeks and return them home no matter their country of origin…. I’ll tell you Laura, it’s also the compassionate thing. Every time you put in place a policy as Obama has in which it encourages a mother to send her unaccompanied daughter a thousand miles across Mexico, to the U.S. Mexican border with everything that can happen and in some cases does as she crosses Mexico, that is wrong. She should be at home with her family. And so the president’s policy has created a crisis for individuals and for families.
A number of studies suggest that those emigrating to the United States are, in fact, fleeing violence. More than five children were already killed after they were deported back and many more “wouldn’t make it home alive” if they are sent back to almost certain death. A Center for American Progress study shows that violence, rather than some kind of immigration benefit, drives children out of El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala, three countries with some of the highest levels of crime and violence in the world. Another study by a Vanderbilt professor suggests that there may be a link between crime victimization and the decision for women and children to emigrate out of their countries.
But, Cassidy has used anti-immigration rhetoric in his most recent attack ad to allege that Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) chose “illegal immigrants ahead of veterans.” At least two major newspapers — the Washington Post and the Times-Picayune panned that accusation, explaining that the amendment in question was never actually voted on since a prior parliamentary process for a budget bill was voted down.
As it stands, Mexican children are treated differently from children from noncontinuous countries. Border Patrol agents — not immigration judges — make the initial determination about whether Mexican children can stay in the United States. Central American children, meanwhile, are rushed through the immigration process, with lawyers often scrambling to represent their child clients.
Even so, Cassidy is not the only politician to call the expedited deportation of children back to their countries with limited due process “compassionate.” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) told ThinkProgress in July that the only way to “solve” the surge in children apprehended on the border is “to remove the promise of amnesty. … What is humane is to have a compassionate, but expedited process for returning these children back home.” Cassidy’s bill also mirrors another bill that Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX) introduced that would allow the federal government to deport children as quickly as possible. That bill’s name? The HUMANE Act.