Dallas Morning News

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas spent much of his first congressional appearance recently parrying attempts by Republican lawmakers to get him to say that the Biden administration is facing a “crisis” at the border.

“I’m not spending any time on the language that we use,” Mayorkas said. “I am spending time on operational response.”

Still, Mayorkas admitted that the rate of unauthorized border crossings could soon hit a 20-year peak. And news reports indicate that as many as 13,000 unaccompanied migrant children are currently in U.S. custody.

Our leaders can debate semantics all day, but it’s indisputable that this country’s federal agencies are, once again, overwhelmed by an influx of children whose asylum cases they are ill-equipped to process. Customs and Border Protection is supposed to transfer custody of unaccompanied minors to U.S. Health and Human Services within 72 hours, but kids are staying in cramped CBP holding facilities longer because the licensed shelters for children are at capacity. An attorney representing migrant youths told CBS News that children at one border facility were taking turns sleeping on the floor.

The decision by federal officials to open an emergency intake center for 3,000 teen boys at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas was a pragmatic move to accommodate the children. Federal agencies, not the city, will pay for the teens’ food and care at the convention center, which will house minors for a period of 90 days while officials work to reunite them with relatives in the U.S. Once released to their families, the kids will wait for their immigration court hearing dates.

We need this temporary shelter, but in the end it is another Band-Aid, another neon sign telling us that our immigration system is busted. What we really need is long-term solutions, and we’re looking at the Biden administration to lead here.

We commend the administration’s decision to restore an Obama-era program that allows Central American youths to apply from their homelands for permission to join parents who are lawfully present in the U.S. The Biden administration should push for legislation that opens other legal pathways for asylum-seekers and economic immigrants, especially measures that would discourage the dangerous journey to the border. It should also pursue investments to expand border infrastructure and personnel so that asylum-seekers’ cases are processed more quickly and more humanely.

GOP leaders have accused President Joe Biden of “opening the floodgates,” but our border failures span Republican and Democratic administrations. Donald Trump, whose draconian immigration policies defined his administration, faced a migrant surge in May of 2019, when Border Patrol apprehended nearly 133,000 people.

It’s shameful that our country, a champion of human rights around the world, treats migrant children as a political football. We’re tired of the border blame game, and we urge our president and our lawmakers to stop squabbling and start fixing, together.

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