DENVER – A star-studded lineup of conservatives gathered in Denver suggested that President Barack Obama’s “lawlessness” led to the crisis along the Southwest border.
The high-profile speakers – including Sarah Palin and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, among others – met this weekend at the Western Conservative Summit, where they acknowledged the “humanitarian crisis” outlined by the president, but suggested that the only “humane” thing to do is send the migrant children home.
An estimated 57,000 unaccompanied children from Central America are seemingly helpless along the Texas border while they await legal proceedings. The situation could impact Colorado if federal officials push to house the children in the state. In states where children have been transported, such as California, angry protesters jammed the streets, diverting busloads of young immigrants.
The Denver Department of Human Services is considering applying for a three-year federal grant to shelter the children, but counties in Southwest Colorado have not been involved in similar discussions.
Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, recently told KUSA-TV 9News that while he would not push for the state to house the immigrant children, he would support local governments that choose to harbor them.
But conservatives say the only solution is to send the children home. They point to an executive order signed by Obama in 2012 that authorized “deferred action,” offering a path to education and citizenship for millions of undocumented youths.
Obama has proposed a $3.7 billion plan to respond to the border crisis, but Republicans worry that welcoming the children into America could send a message to the world that exacerbates the situation.
“We’re seeing illegals who are pouring in to collect what he illegally promised them,” former Alaska governor and vice presidential candidate Palin said while addressing her audience at the Hyatt Regency.
“If Obama won’t obey the law and secure the borders, then it’s not immigration, it’s invasion,” she concluded.
Cruz, the U.S. senator and conservative favorite from Texas who headlined a Saturday night “vision rally” during the summit, echoed similar thoughts, adding, “I agree with President Obama in one regard. We are seeing a humanitarian crisis. But it is a crisis of his own making.
“The compassionate thing to do is solve the problem,” he continued. “The compassionate thing to do is to humanely and expeditiously reunite them with their families.”
U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, agreed that the crisis was caused by Obama’s immigration policies, including a lack of enforcement along the border.
“We all have compassion for these kids who, because this administration has failed to enforce our nation’s immigration laws, have been exposed to tremendous hardships, danger and suffering as they are in many cases being brought across Mexico by violent cartels as a source of profit,” Tipton told The Durango Herald in an email. “If America’s laws continue to go unenforced, then the influx of illegal immigration will only increase, and many more children will be exposed to life-threatening journeys and separated from their families as they try to reach America’s border all because of this administration’s empty promises and failure.”
Rep. Don Coram, R-Montrose, expressed sympathy for the migrant children, but agreed that the only solution is deportation. He does not support the state offering assistance.
“We all want to take care of children, and we want to see that they’re safe, and they’re cared for, but to bring them here, frankly, we can’t afford it. I would rather see them back in their home country,” Coram said.
America would be better served, he said, diverting some foreign aid to the torn nations the children are fleeing, rather than assisting them in the United States.
“Do I want to see them cared for? Absolutely,” Coram said. “But they do not have to be cared for on American soil.”
Coram’s Democratic colleague, Rep. Mike McLachlan of Durango, agreed that sheltering the children in Colorado is not the answer. But he said Republicans in Congress should kick into high gear to pass comprehensive immigration reform. A proposal has been backed by the Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate but has stalled in the Republican-controlled House.
“It’s a very unfortunate situation that needs to be addressed,” McLachlan said. “The bottom line issue is that Congress needs to enact some type of immigration reform. But as far as the immediate situation here, I don’t foresee any role for the state of Colorado on this issue.”
State Democratic leaders, however, were a little less reserved in their criticism of Republicans for not taking action on immigration reform.
“Not too long ago, Republicans were taken seriously for their policy ideas,” said Rick Palacio, chairman of the Colorado Democratic Party. “However, this weekend’s Conservative Summit is further proof that today’s GOP is no longer a big tent party that is interested in real solutions for all Americans, rather they’ve become a circus sideshow featuring carnival barkers like Sarah Palin and Ted Cruz; two of the many headliners who ... called immigrants invaders.”