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The right fate for immigrant kids

Ruben Navarrette | 7/2/2014, 6 a.m.
It's time to get beyond the question of who's to blame for the crisis along the U.S.-Mexico border, where tens ...
Thousands of community, labor and immigrant rights supporters and immigrant families converge on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol on April 10, 2013. The demonstrators urge Congress to pass common sense immigration reform in 2013 that includes a clear and direct path to citizenship for the nation's 11 million undocumented immigrants. (Floyd Yarmuth/CNN)

— It's time to get beyond the question of who's to blame for the crisis along the U.S.-Mexico border, where tens of thousands of children -- three-fourths of them from Honduras, Guatemala, or El Salvador -- are streaming into the United States and overwhelming our border enforcement apparatus.

We have to focus on workable solutions and skip half-baked ideas that make the problem worse.

Unfortunately, neither President Obama nor congressional Republicans are bringing their A-game.

You know who did bring theirs? The human smuggling cartels.

The White House recently acknowledged that "criminal syndicates" planted fake media reports on foreign television networks telling desperate would-be migrants that Congress had passed an amnesty and urging people to go north immediately for their "permisos" (permits) to live legally in the United States. Helping what is now nearly 100,000 young people cross the U.S.-Mexico border, at $8,000 per head, the bad guys earned about $800 million. It was a brilliant plan, and an evil one.

How are our leaders responding? The results are not impressive.

Republicans insist that Obama is to blame for the surge because of an accommodation he offered young undocumented immigrants in 2012.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-California, is demanding that Obama end the program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which lets young undocumented immigrants who were brought here as children avoid deportation and apply for a work permit, and which Issa claims -- with no evidence to back it up -- is responsible for the flood of children across the border.

Never mind that none of the children now crossing into the country is eligible for DACA, because anyone who enters the country after June 15, 2007, does not qualify for the program. Never mind that, if DACA were to blame for the influx, it would have happened two years ago.

Never mind that the real reason so many of these kids have been turned over to family members in the United States while awaiting a court date isn't DACA. It's because of a longstanding but unspoken policy by the Border Patrol to treat unaccompanied minors differently from adults -- and a 2008 law signed by President George W. Bush that prohibits Border Patrol agents from sending them back across the border. It instead requires that they be handed over to the Department of Health and Human Services until they can be placed in the custody of a relative.

Meanwhile, Obama is being just as thickheaded -- and hardhearted. He will soon ask Congress to provide more than $2 billion in new funding to bolster enforcement on the border.

By all means, because the tens of billions that we spend on securing the homeland -- including the $38.2 billion that Obama and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson requested from Congress in the fiscal year 2015 budget request -- have been so effective in tightening the border.

Obama also wants additional powers for the executive branch so that immigration officials can speed up the removal of young unaccompanied minors without the nuisance of having to administer due process, including access to legal counsel.