Broken borders, Broken system

A multi-part series of editorials and columns regarding the issue of immigration reform.

When a surge of Central Americans descended on the Rio Grande Valley to cross into this country illegally in the summer of 2014, the cries to ‘Seal our border,’ and ‘Reform immigration’ reverberated across the country. The Monitor quickly determined that, beyond the rhetoric, many of those screaming the loudest had few specific policy recommendations to fix the problem. The Monitor editorial board began talking to law enforcement, policymakers, human rights activists, local readers and the immigrants themselves in search of answers. This series represents the culmination of at least six months of research and interviews with scores of people. It is presented on these pages in the hopes of spurring discourse about one of the most significant public policy debates to visit our country and our region in decades.

EDITORIAL: Unfortunate DACA ‘pawns’ in DC budget battle showdown

As lawmakers in Washington wrangle over an omnibus spending bill that will continue to fund the federal government past midnight Friday, it’s unfortunate and short-sided to throw into those negotiations questions over what to do with the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) participants.

These should be two completely separate issues. The fate of the 800,000 youth — including 200,000 in Texas who were brought here illegally as children and whose program President Donald Trump has said will end beginning next year — should not be used as pawns in this fiscal fight.

Sen. John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, in a conference call with media Wednesday blamed Democrats for inflicting DACA youth into this spending fight, saying: “As we work to give these DACA participants greater clarity in these uncertain times, I think the last thing that our Democratic colleagues should do is threaten to shut down the government and punish 320 million people, not to mention our military and those serving in harm’s way. That would be completely irresponsible action.”
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EDITORIAL: The risks of walking out today for Dreamers

There is an undeniable soft-spot that many have toward Dreamers — those who were brought here illegally as children through no fault of their own and who bring with them much promise to our country’s future, if we allow them to stay.

They were reared in our culture. They attend our schools. Most speak our language. They work beside us and they serve in our military forces. They represent the best and the brightest and they are some of the most driven young people in America today.

That is why it seems so incongruous and a contradiction of their very character for them to hold a nationwide “youth walk out day” today to bring attention to their cause.

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EDITORIAL: Feds: Keep studying RGV before building a wall

That a top administrator for the Department of Homeland Security came to the Rio Grande Valley and spent two days touring the Rio Grande Valley — and in particular the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, which is where a border wall is proposed to be built — is significant.

While we appreciate that the acting under secretary for science and technology, William Bryan, and several members of his staff took the time to come and study the terrain and this unique and absolutely beautiful Alamo preserve, which is home to so much flora and fauna, we are concerned that it could signal the administration is closer to starting plans for a border wall at this national preserve and regional jewel.

Hopefully their tour has given them a better understanding of how a border wall at this site could destroy wildlife and the habitat that supports it.

Continue reading EDITORIAL: Feds: Keep studying RGV before building a wall

EDITORIAL: Detainment of disabled child by Border Patrol should ‘shock us’ all

The detainment by U.S. Border Patrol agents of a 10-year-old disabled girl, who is in this country illegally, from her Corpus Christi hospital room following emergency surgery this week, is an unconscionable and short-sighted act.

The child, who has cerebral palsy and developmental delays that put her on mental par with a 4-year-old, is now facing deportation and is left to recover from surgery in a federal facility without her parents. It brings to light a bigger threat to all immigrant families who might try to cross a checkpoint seeking medical help in the future, U.S. Rep. Joaquín Castro, D-San Antonio, told us.

That federal agents would take the child from her family and send her to a federal facility for unaccompanied minors who come to this country illegally, directly conflicts with orders from her physician. Her doctor wrote in hospital discharge papers this week that the girl should be released to her family’s care, the family’s lawyer said Thursday.

Continue reading EDITORIAL: Detainment of disabled child by Border Patrol should ‘shock us’ all

EDITORIAL: Alternative aerial surveillance welcome to building a border wall

The use of smaller, tethered unmanned surveillance balloons, which can see for about 5 miles into the distance and cost considerably less to operate than the giant Aerostats that currently fly above our region, is a welcome option to building a wall on the Southwest border.

The devices — Winch Aerostat Small Platform (WASP) — were tested in the Rio Grande Valley sector by U.S. Border Patrol agents in late August and are being considered for field use because of the ease by which they can be assembled and relocated, the Associated Press reports.

U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, who sits on the powerful House Appropriations Committee, and the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, told us last week these mini-units are a viable alternative to building a massive wall. Cuellar has long been an advocate for alternative surveillance options that are effective in dissuading illegal immigration, yet less permanent and less expensive. He has said that every mile of permanent border fencing, or wall, would cost $6.5 million; but one mile of technology costs just $1 million.

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COMMENTARY: Trump’s border wall threatens Starr County

The plans for President Donald Trump’s border walls in Starr County are extreme and alarming.

Standing 20- to 30-feet tall, the structures would be the tallest border walls ever built in the United States and would wall off 32 miles of the Rio Grande in three sections, the longest of which would run from Roma all the way to Falcon Lake. The other two sections would be built on the southern edge of Rio Grande City and La Grulla. Each of the sections would be made of bollards — eight-inch wide steel posts with four-inch wide gaps. The footprint would include a 150-foot “enforcement zone” lining the south, or river side, of the wall where all vegetation would be cleared.

If the walls are built, these towns and the smaller communities of Salineño and Chapeño would be cut off from the river that is responsible for their very existence. Residents could lose access to the river for recreation, and the character of these historic communities would be spoiled.

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EDITORIAL: DACA youth are ‘caught in the middle’

It’s clear that President Donald Trump believes he has found his ultimate trump card in the 800,000 DACA participants who enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which he is now playing to prompt Congress to reform immigration.

On Sunday — just three days after the DACA renewal application period closed — Trump sent Congress a sweeping list of immigration-related demands including a crackdown on “sanctuary cities;” tougher asylum laws; the hiring of 10,000 more ICE agents and nearly 400 more immigration judges; funds to construct a border wall here in the Rio Grande Valley and along the Southwest; and the deportation of unaccompanied children and family units who are not in the DACA program. Otherwise, the fate of DACA, which President Barack Obama enacted in 2012, appears doomed and the DACA enrollees likely face deportation.

While some might view that as cruel and heartless, from a business perspective it makes sense coming from a president with such a business background.

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