Hillary Clinton yesterday took a firm stand on how the U.S. should handle a wave of unaccompanied children from Central America who are migrating across the Mexico border, to be held in detention facilities if not temporarily allowed to join family living here.
During a CNN “town hall” event to promote her new book, the former secretary of state said violence and poor law enforcement in Central America prompt parents there to send their children toward the U.S. border, but such desperation should not entitle them to stay here.
“They should be sent back as soon as it can be determined who the responsible adults in their families are,” Clinton said. “There are concerns about whether all of them can be sent back, but I think all of them who can be should be reunited with their families [in their native countries].”
Clinton, who has said she supports “comprehensive immigration reform,” said her solutions for the surge of illegal immigrants include providing stronger border enforcement and taking a more hands-on approach in engaging with Central American countries.
“We have to do more to deal with the violence in this region, to deal with border security, but we have to send a clear message that just because your child gets across the border that doesn’t mean the child gets to stay,” Clinton said. “We don’t want to send a message that is contrary to our laws or that will encourage more children to take that dangerous journey.”
Responding to Clinton’s comments, the advocacy group United We Dream criticized her for failing to provide a clear answer regarding her stance on deportations.
“Who does Hillary stand with: our families or the Deporter-in-Chief?” Cristina Jimenez, the group’s managing director, said. “If separating children from families is not who we are as Americans, then Hillary Clinton should join other Democratic leaders in calling on President Obama to take executive action to provide relief and reform for families still under the threat of deportation.”
The Obama administration has called the sudden increase in minors traveling across the U.S. border without their parents a humanitarian crisis. President Obama designated the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate shelter and care.
The Department of Health and Human Services predicted in March that at least 60,000 minors would try to cross into the United States without their parents this fiscal year.
But the unaccompanied youths are part of a larger flow of Central Americans that also includes unprecedented numbers of families with small children.
The House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing at 2 p.m. June 25 in the Rayburn House Office Building to talk about the surge of unaccompanied minors.