Deb Fischer at the border
Sen. Deb Fischer traveled to Mexico border Friday to gather information from those responsible for apprehending and detaining Central American children crossing the border.
Fischer said federal law must be revised to expedite the return of the children to central America. She said that is "the key to solving this problem."
Fischer visited the McAllen Border Patrol Station, the Hidalgo Bridge, and Lackland Air Force. After visiting both DHS and HHS detention facilities, she said "there is no doubt that once in U.S. custody, these children are treated humanely. There is also no doubt, though, of the severity of this crisis, which is expected to worsen once again as temperatures cool in coming months."
She also said additional financial resources are part of the solution.
Fischer said the U.S. Border Patrol has performed remarkably well under the pressure of thousands of children, as well as the adults who have crossed the border.
Fischer said the border patrol is forced to operate less efficiently in order to cope with legal constraints preventing them from safely and quickly returning these children home.
This message of “inefficient operation” was driven home time and time again, she said.
Why they come, can't be sent back
Some 57,000 children, many of them unaccompanied by adults, have arrived at the border since October, seeking asylum. Many of them are from war-torn Honduras, which as degenerated into lawlessness since 2010 as the government collapsed and powerful drug cartels battled each other.
The children are brought to the U.S. by paid transporters known as “coyotes" for around $5,000 per child.
While some children turn themselves in voluntarily to Border Patrol, others try and work their way north in the U.S. until they are apprehended.
A 2008 federal law requires unaccompanied children from Central America to be treated differently than Mexican children, who are repatriated (sent back to their native country) within a matter of days, Fischer's media spokesman Joe Hack told the Bulletin.
However, unaccompanied children from Central America must be detained by Border Patrol, screened, and then transferred to the custody of U.S. Health and Human Services until they are placed with family members in the U.S., or in foster care, while their case then makes its way through the immigration court system (which can take two years.)
Also, some children are crossing the border in places where there is no fence or through underground tunnels. Federal law regarding refugees does not legalize the act of crossing the border outside of statutorily designated avenues for entry.