U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Laredo) who toured a shelter holding hundreds of the unaccompanied children who have been flooding into the U.S. from Central America, says the U.S. State Department needs to send a message to Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, which is where more than 90% of the children are coming from, 1200 WOAI news reports.
"We need to change our policy and send a strong message to these countries that we are going to deport them right away," Cuellar said. "They can't just come in."
Cuellar says the criminal smuggling gangs which are driving the chaotic stream of young immigrants are telling them that if they get to the United States, they will be allowed to stay. Obviously, the criminal gangs have a financial interest in lying to the children.
The White House says it has 'processing the children for removal,' but stresses that is a legal proceeding, and since many of the children will claim political asylum, the process is expected to take years.
Cuellar says if some of the children whose families scraped together thousands of dollars to pay immigrant smuggles to get them into the U.S. suddenly arrive back in Honduras, they will help spread the word that making the trip is a bad investment. Cuellar says right now, the only message that the children and their families are hearing in Central America is, 'if you get here, it will be okay.'
Cuellar says the situation along the border is a true humanitarian tragedy.
"They're talking about how do we get these kids back, and they are saying, we don't know how to absorb them right away, we don't know how to find the moms and the dads."
The White H0use is now estimating that nearly a quarter million Central American children will try to make it to the U.S. in the coming two years, and Cuellar says the only way to stop that flood is to make sure people in Central America get the word that a trip to the United States is not a one way journey.
Cuellar also released profiles of some of the children he met with in the immigrant camps and he says many of them have similar stories to tell. They paid smuggling gangs to get them from El Salvador, Guatemala or Honduras into the United States, and many said they came through south Texas because they were told it was the 'easiest' way to get into the U.S. Almost all of them have relatives already in the U.S.
Most say they came to the U.S. due to the gang violence in their home country, which is generally due to corrupt and dysfunctional governments. One woman who came here with her 13 month old son says she was threatened by the smuggler who brought her here, and they threatened to kill her son unless she gave them all of her money.
The charge for being taken by a coyote from Central America to Texas is about $3500, or about five times the cost of a plane ticket from Guatemala City to San Antonio.
Most of the young people say the smugglers sought them out as a way to make money for themselves, even though some say they came here completely on their own, walking or hitching rides through Mexico to get to the Rio Grande.
A Bush Administration law designed, of all things, to stop sex trafficking actually forbids the Border Patrol from immediately sending people who come from countries which are not contiguous to the U.S. immediately back to Mexico. Many of the young immigrants are gaming the system by taking advantage of this law.