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Coats Column: Congress Should Address Border Crisis

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Policies put in place by the Obama Administration are responsible for the urgent, growing and heartbreaking crisis on our nation's southern border.

For five and a half years, the president has gone around Congress to ignore, defy and alter laws in a variety of areas, from Obamacare implementation to issuing excessive new labor and environmental rules to infringing on religious freedom. It is no different with immigration policy, where President Obama has unilaterally deferred enforcement of U.S. immigration laws for many currently here illegally.

His actions have encouraged many in Central America to risk their lives, or the lives of their loved ones, to enter the United States illegally under the false belief that they will be forgiven or granted outright amnesty.

It is largely this assumption, more than recent spikes in crime that is responsible for the sudden surge of 60,000 unaccompanied Guatemalan, Honduran and El Salvadorian children who have been apprehended on America's southern border since last October. An additional 60,000 family members -- one or both parents traveling with their children -- also have been apprehended during this period.

This situation does not simply affect border states. The administration recently announced they have sent hundreds of unaccompanied alien children to Indiana communities, with more expected.

As if President Obama's previous actions have not done enough harm, he has threatened to "fix" the crisis he helped create.

Crises like this illustrate why our federal government has a system of checks and balances that encourages debate and input by our nation's 535 lawmakers -- an all hands on deck approach -- rather than let policy be dictated by one individual.

The president's justification for issuing another round of executive orders is congressional inaction.

While I share the president's frustration with the general inability of Congress to get things done, the House of Representatives has passed legislation addressing this issue, and I have cosponsored a similar measure in the Senate.

The House-passed legislation would make several changes to current immigration law to allow quicker repatriation of unaccompanied alien children while ensuring due process for asylum claims. The legislation also would prevent the president from expanding the deferred action program and provide funding for border security, law enforcement and humanitarian assistance activities, without adding to the debt.

I am hopeful that the Senate will fully debate this issue, rather than seek to simply throw money at the situation without taking any steps to address the current flood of illegal immigrants.

As part of a long term strategy to stem the tide of illegal immigration, we first have to put an end to the false notion that if you illegally enter the United States, you can stay here.

While we must take steps to ensure the safety and well-being of unaccompanied children currently in the United States, we also must reunite these children with their families in their home countries as soon as possible.

Parents will see children returned home, and perhaps not spend the money and risk the danger of sending their children away. We must deter children from even starting this arduous journey.

As the son of an immigrant, I am keenly aware of our nation's diverse background. While we are a nation of immigrants, we are a nation of legal immigrants who followed the law to better their lives and the lives of their children.

The House-passed proposal is a reasonable approach that will address this crisis more effectively than the classic Washington response of throwing money at a problem with hopes of fixing it later.

What message would we be sending if we allowed the status quo to continue?


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