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Here's What We Can Do About the Border Crisis Right Now
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Here's What We Can Do About the Border Crisis Right Now There are no easy solutions, but there are some clear first steps

By Photo: Getty Images

The debate about immigration is complicated. The debate about the summer’s immigration crisis is really, really complicated.

The stories and photos of children arriving at the border are harrowing and heart-breaking and, at times, infuriating. But what to do about this influx is not so easy to answer. The U.S., like all countries, has specific criteria for immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers. Many of these children don’t qualify. Should they? If so, who else shouldand is the U.S. prepared to handle the influx? If not, what happens as more and more of these kids keep showing up?

In my business, I’m supposed to have this all figured out. I don’t. I suspect I have a lot of company, even among people who make or follow policy for a living. As my colleague Rachel Morris pointed out on Thursday, the obvious, broad principleswe are a compassionate country that wants and depends upon immigrants; we live in a world of real borders that require enforcementare in direct conflict with one another. I suspect that’s one reason the politics of this episode can be so hard to follow.

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But you don’t need answers to the big questions in order to have an opinion on some more narrow, short-term issues. One of them is the question of whether children coming before immigration courts deserve lawyers. Clearly, they do. These are frequently very young kids, defending themselves in country they don’t know, trying to navigate a legal system they can’t possibly understand. (See Rebecca Leber’s synopsis for more.) And while many don’t qualify for asylum under current guideline, many do. Giving them representation is the right and decent thing to do. A lawsuit from the ACLU, American Immigration Council, and some other public interest groups would force the government to provide lawyers. Such lawsuits aren’t the best ways to legislate policy, obviously, but in this case there may be no other choice.

Another matter that’s (relatively) easy to judge is the Obama Administration’s request for $3.7 billion in emergency appropriations. A big chunk of the money would go to the Department of Health and Human Services, which is in charge of caring for the unaccompanied children that arrive in the U.S. Another chunk would add resources for enforcement and the processing of immigration cases, to speed a process that’s become hopelessly backlogged. A much smaller allotment will go to the countries in Central America, to help with resettlement of people sent back and (a little) to help them improve the horrible conditions that are giving people so much reason to leave.

You can argue about the relative balance of the allotments. The proposal sets aside $15 million for legal representation, but that's not nearly enough, given all the kids who need counsel. But the basic shape of the package makes sense. And the money has to get spent, soon. South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham, to his credit, has endorsed the idea in principleurging fellow Republicans to act because a humanitarian crisis requires it. Let’s hope they listen.

Jonathan Cohn

Things to know

OBAMACARE: John Boehner reveals what his lawsuit against the President will be all about. Surprise, it’s Obama’s unilateral delay of the employer mandate. (Politico)

CLIMATEChris Mooney explains a new study that show rich Republicans really are the most likely to think climate change isn’t dangerous.

DROUGHT: California is suffering through a drought that could mean the state passes its first state-wide restriction on residential water use$500 for water wasters. (Mercury News)

ECONOMY: In a rare moment of bipartisan agreement, the House passed a jobs training bill by a 415-6 vote that will help streamline programs and better train American workers. The Senate had already passed the legislation so it now heads to President Obama's desk for his signature. (CNN)

Things to read

Should the Fed's mandate be expanded? Currently, the Federal Reserve has a mandate to ensure price stability (aka inflation) and low unemployment. But the recently confirmed vice-chair of the Fed thinks it should also include financial stability. (Ylan Q. MuiWashington Post)

The future of housing? Matt K. Lewis argues that new urbanismthe promotion of mixed use, high density, walkable neighbourhoodsshould appeal to conservatives as well as liberals.

Things to watch

It's a relatively quiet Friday. But the border crisis is ongoing. Expect to hear reaction to Boehner's lawsuit as well.

Things at QED

Should a 10-year old migrant child have to represent himself before an immigration judge? Rebecca Leber looks at a lawsuit from ACLU that hopes to ensure that all the unaccompanied children receive legal representation. Danny Vinik breaks down the murder rates in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador and wonders if these kids should actually qualify for asylum.

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