REAL SOLUTIONS ARE SCARCE IN BORDER DEBATE

Georgie Anne Geyer

WASHINGTON -- In case you've wondered how those 57,000 Central American "youngsters" could creep across the American border without any of us seeing them on our own streets or downtowns, here are some of the answers our beleaguered government is giving us:

-- Federal data now declares that the "vast majority" of those unaccompanied migrant children arriving this year have been released to relatives in states with large Central American populations -- a total of 47,000 children.

-- However, at the same time, The New York Times reports that same influx of children is causing President Obama to crack down on deportations at the moment he was preparing to allow more people here illegally to stay.

-- Meanwhile, House Republicans want to put the National Guard on the border to halt the flow of young illegals, at the same time expediting the immigration hearing process for the unaccompanied alien children, who otherwise could stay in the U.S. for months or years, depending upon their showing up for their court hearings.

-- Still another idea being floated from the Obama administration is to consider whether minors and young adults from Honduras should be screened in Honduras itself to see if they can enter America as refugees.

It pains me to write this, but even a cursory look at this situation -- which is expected only to worsen -- defies the idea that any of these "solutions" are solutions at all.

Releasing them to parents or relatives? Anyone with any knowledge of Central America and its family system would know that extended family are regarded as close relatives, even as parents. At best, this "answer" creates only more questions.

How do we know whether these are parents or relatives? A phone number scribbled on a hand? If there actually were/are parents in the U.S., almost surely illegally as well, why didn't they send for their children before? There are ways to do that besides letting 5-year-olds walk across Mexico with a couple of other kids. And what do we know of these children? Perhaps they have already worked with the drug cartels and will continue to do so in Indiana or California.

By taking such huge numbers into our country, with no knowledge of their family backgrounds, of their health reports, of their school records, we are packing the United States with undocumented strangers. How can it be that we don't have funds for our own children, and yet we are willing to scatter obviously troubled children over the country who do not speak English. In fact, the high numbers of undocumented Latinos who have crowded our borders are responsible for overwhelming and closing hospitals and schools along the Mexico-U.S. border. Soon they will be forming political action groups to complain about their treatment here.

Screening children in Honduras for refugee status? Refugee status was never meant for children or minors; it was meant for adults escaping, say, Nazism or communism or fascism in general. The threat had to be very specifically directed at one person. If you can show me even a thousand children who can explain to you how he or she specifically is threatened and deserves refugee status, I'll gladly listen.

The children -- from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador -- are pitiful creatures when they arrive at our southern border. One wants to help. But one wants more to do the best thing for our own country, and that is not to overload our infrastructure.

My answer would be a combination of National Guard troops on the border (which George W. Bush already did, incidentally) and deportations.

There is no reason the American military, which can set up decent camp cities seemingly overnight all over the world, should not establish permanent accommodations for illegals along the border. There is no reason the National Guard should not keep the border safe. There is no reason every poor country in the world -- not to speak of the drug-infested and crime-smothered regions like Central America -- should look at us for their Shangri-La.

Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly spent 19 months in Central America last year "observing the transnational organized crime networks" in the region, and wrote about it in the Military Times under the headline, "Central America Drug War a Dire Threat to U.S. National Security."

He concluded, as quoted in The Wall Street Journal, that, "Drug cartels and associated street gang activity in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, which respectively have the world's No. 1, 4 and 5 highest homicide rates, have left near-broken societies in their wake." Institutions have been destroyed, the law has been overwhelmed and the U.S. is the target of drug-smuggling.

Oh, but I have one other answer. The U.S. armed forces should be sent, in agreement with these three failed states, to reconstitute their armies, their laws and their institutions. Such an act would not be out of sync with our past actions there. Without such an act, this can go on forever.

(Georgie Anne Geyer has been a foreign correspondent and commentator on international affairs for more than 40 years. She can be reached at gigi_geyer(at)juno.com.)

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