Weekly Column by Lamar Alexander: “Propose a Serious Plan of Action to Secure the Border”

July 11, 2014 - July 11, 2014

It is clear we are facing an unprecedented crisis at our border. More than 57,000 unaccompanied children have illegally crossed the border this year, and that number will only continue to rise if the president doesn’t take strong, swift action immediately. The president has asked Congress for $3.7 billion in emergency spending to deal with this crisis, but what is missing is a complete, serious plan of action.

In an Appropriations Committee hearing this week considering the president’s budget request, I laid out three things the president should be doing to address this crisis.

First and foremost, we need to secure the border immediately. We need to ensure that the border in the Rio Grande Sector of Texas – where upwards of 400 children a day are crossing a 320-mile section that lacks physical barriers – is secure. If necessary, the president needs to bring in the National Guard as he did in 2010 and 2011 to send a clear message that the border is closed. In 2006, a number of senators and I pressed President Bush to send the National Guard to the border. Although he was reluctant, his efforts of sending 6,000 troops at a time between 2006 and 2008 are largely credited with making the Southwest border more secure, apprehending 186,814 undocumented immigrants.

While we are securing the border, we need to send these unaccompanied minors back to their home countries as safely and quickly as possible. If their home countries don’t cooperate with us to find these children a safe place in their own countries, then we should cut off foreign aid to these countries until they do. We need to send a clear signal to the parents in those countries that their children are coming home and the border is closed to them.

In addition, we need to fix a Democratic amendment to the 2008 Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act that is making it harder to send these children home safely and quickly. The sooner the president can be specific about how to do this, the better.‎

This is an extraordinary problem that demands an immediate response, and I hope the president will include these measures in a serious plan of action to address this crisis.