Facing blame for tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors flooding across the border, the Obama administration is trying to deflect responsibility onto a familiar target: George W. Bush.
Unable to convince Americans that President Obama’s policy of “deferred action”—the 2012 decision to halt deportation proceedings against illegal immigrants who arrived as children—is not incentivizing more illegal behavior, the White House says that a Bush era law is a big part of the problem.
The William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 gives children entering the United States alone access to legal assistance and medical care while authorities determine how best to reunite them with family members.
The law only applies to children from countries other than Mexico and Canada, since deportation in those cases can be quickly achieved. Most important, the kids covered by the law are victims of human trafficking, meaning it presumes that such children were abducted from their homes and transported against their will to a foreign country. Untangling that process takes time.
Yet where a bipartisan Congress and a Republican president saw an opportunity to protect children from unscrupulous adults, the Obama White House sees an example of unintended consequences. “The Obama administration says the law is partly responsible for tying its hands in dealing with the current influx of children,” reports the New York Times.
Helping Human Traffickers
Dana Milbank at the Washington Post explains the reasoning. When Congress passed and Bush signed a law that gave victims of human trafficking an 18-month process before deportation, “it was exploited by the very traffickers it was meant to target, who encouraged this huge emigration of children from Central America.”
Milbank’s use of the word “encouraged” is odd to those familiar with how human trafficking works. Traffickers don’t encourage participation in their enterprise—they abduct, confine, torture, and profit from it. Milbank seems to hint that family members of the children being smuggled are contracting with traffickers to move their children illegally through Mexico and into the United States.
That is true. As Hans von Spakovsky wrote back in December, Central American families are hiring traffickers to bring their children into the United States illegally, and the Obama administration is helping them complete the crime. One federal judge cited in Spakovsky’s piece had four consecutive cases where the Department of Homeland Security “completed the crime by delivering the child to the parents and refusing to take any action against them.”
To the extent that parents are risking their children’s safety by abusing federal human trafficking laws, the blame lies not with Congress or President Bush but with such parents and the Obama officials aiding and abetting them.
The Law-Breaking Cascade
Moreover, Milbank neglects to mention in his article that the rise of unaccompanied minors has risen dramatically only since 2012—the year Obama instituted deferred action. To his credit, Milbank admits the obvious, saying, “Central American parents may have been led to believe Obama’s leniency toward the so-called ‘Dreamers’ would benefit these current arrivals.”
Of course they believed it. The White House and its defenders have tried to say deferred action had nothing to do with attracting the flood of new arrivals since the amnesty only applies to kids arriving before 2007. Many media reports, however, say that parents encouraging their kids to cross assume that the Obama administration won’t actually enforce that part of the policy. Considering the evidence, who can blame them?
If there are any unintended consequences of the Bush era trafficking law, they are these: At the time it was signed, no one could have foreseen that the Obama administration would (1) grant blanket amnesty to nearly all illegal minors, and (2) assist parents abusing anti-trafficking regulations to benefit from that amnesty. If failure to anticipate that kind of lawlessness is a reason to blame Bush and the 2008 Congress, then we should cease the lawmaking process since everyone can be scapegoated for the perversions of their successors.
The fundamental cause of the childhood illegal immigration wave we are seeing is not a compassionate law trying to protect the victims of human trafficking. It’s the president’s unilateral decision not to enforce America’s immigration laws on an entire class of people. The latter act is lawless, and it is breeding even more lawlessness.