Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Senator Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and 40 other senators today called on the White House to counter misinformation that is being spread to vulnerable children and families in Central American countries, that encourages them to risk their lives by attempting to enter the United States.
While Feinstein supports President Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, it is only available to children who have been present in the country since 2007. The lawmakers also urged the president to convey to his counterparts in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras the need for their help in dispelling rampant misinformation.
“We urge you to use the resources at your disposal to personally make clear to those seeking entry to the U.S. illicitly that they will not receive special treatment when it comes to enforcing our immigration laws,” the senators wrote. “In addition, we encourage you to convey to your foreign counterparts in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras the urgent imperative for them to dispel the misunderstanding of our laws and to take action against those who are spreading such misinformation.”
In addition to gang- and drug-related violence, many unaccompanied children crossing the border from Central America say they are lured to the United States by false advertising that says they will be granted automatic “permisos” and be allowed to stay indefinitely.
Feinstein applauds the administration’s efforts thus far to dispel the misinformation and surge resources to the border to ensure unaccompanied children are treated humanely. To further quell misguided expectations caused by dangerous rumors about U.S. immigration laws and policies, however, there is no message more powerful than that of the president.
In addition to Senators Feinstein and Flake, the letter was signed by Senators Al Franken (D-Minn.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Dan Coats (R-Ind.), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), John Walsh (D-Mont.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Dean Heller (R-Nev.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), John Thune (R-S.D.), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), David Vitter (R-La.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), James Risch (R-Idaho) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.).
Full text of the letter follows:
June 26, 2014
The Honorable Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Dear President Obama:
We write to urge you to personally send a clear message to those seeking to enter the U.S. illegally.
The increasing numbers of unaccompanied children crossing the U.S. border in Texas has caused an unfolding humanitarian situation that has required a coordinated federal response. While a number of factors are influencing the influx of unaccompanied children crossing the southern border, a significant contributor is reported misrepresentations of our immigration laws by bad actors such as human smugglers and a misunderstanding of our immigration laws by parents and children.
We urge you to use the resources at your disposal to personally make clear to those seeking entry to the U.S. illicitly that they will not receive special treatment when it comes to enforcing our immigration laws. Based on reports from unaccompanied children and federal officials, we respectfully recommend that you specifically convey that those unaccompanied children now entering the U.S. will not be eligible for deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA). Similarly, it would be helpful for you to clarify that legislative remedies at hand require children to have been in the country for an extended duration. For example, legalization under the Senate-passed immigration reform legislation requires, among other things, that undocumented immigrants have been present in the U.S. since December 31, 2011.
In addition, we encourage you to convey to your foreign counterparts in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras the urgent imperative for them to dispel the misunderstanding of our laws and to take action against those who are spreading such misinformation. Importantly, we also request that you work with the leaders of these countries to improve conditions in their countries so that their children do not feel the need to make the dangerous journey to the U.S., and to enhance regional collaboration to address this crisis.
The present situation begs your personal efforts to clarify U.S. immigration laws and to spur action from leaders of the primary sending countries.