THE 113TH Congress, which will afflict this nation until Jan. 3, is a paradigm of inaction, inertia and partisan paralysis. And on the issue of immigration, which has risen to the top of Americans’ list of concerns, Congress has outdone itself.
Already, thanks to House Republicans, it has defied the clear wishes of the public and leaders in both parties by refusing to overhaul the nation’s broken immigration system. With bipartisan support, a good bill cleared the Senate; it went nowhere in the House.
Now, in the face of the surge of underage undocumented immigrants, which has created a crisis at the border that is rapidly spreading to states and localities, Congress is seizing up again. Faced with an obvious need for emergency funding and legislative tweaking to handle the migrants already here and deter others from following, Democrats and Republicans are responding by scrambling for political advantage and cover. Solutions seem beyond the current crop of lawmakers; they think only of tactics and elections.
President Obama has asked for $3.7 billion to care for the mainly teenage migrants who have crossed the border and to speed up processing and possible deportations for those who don’t qualify to remain. He’s also said he would seek changes in an anti-trafficking law enacted in 2008 that has made it difficult to quickly deport unaccompanied minors from Central America.
Those proposals, which would do a lot to contain the crisis, are now mired in a partisan free-for-all. Democrats, loath to give offense to their growing Hispanic base, are balking at fixing the 2008 law, even though it has been an inadvertent magnet in attracting many of the 57,000 unaccompanied youths who made the perilous journey.
Most Republicans are fine with fixing the law — they’ve already alienated Hispanic voters indefinitely — but until that’s done they won’t approve the emergency funding that would house, feed and tend to the underage migrants already here.
Now the two sides are shouting at each other, the White House is nervous about pushback on its original proposal to close the 2008 loophole, and House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) says that no legislation is likely before Congress goes on its five-week summer recess Aug. 1.
Terrific: More than 5,000 minors are crossing the border on their own each month, and the United States is too paralyzed to respond.
U.S. officials say that in the absence of the emergency funding requested by the administration, money to deal with the crisis is running out. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said this month that in the coming weeks, Border Patrol agents will have to quit their security posts on the frontier to staff facilities housing the youths who have entered the country.
Republicans are preening to their base about how tough they are in denying funding sought by the White House. Democrats are pandering to theirs by refusing to close the loophole that has encouraged the surge of young migrants. Instead of giving the country answers, Congress is delivering a systemic breakdown.