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Immigration, Child Refugees and Horrible, Horrible Politics

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"Young girls who we interviewed had been threatened for nonconsensual sexual relationships with some members of these gangs. One girl told us she left because they had threatened her multiple times and she knew that they would follow through because they took her best friend and, after they had raped her, they dismembered her body and put her body parts along the road to school as a reminder to her and the other girls that this is not an empty threat."

I had never before seen Chris Hayes so taken aback as during his interview with Leslie Valez, UN High Commission on Refugees Senior Protection Officer, and for good reason.

These horror stories that one might think would be taking place under the Taliban in the lawless Afghanistan/Pakistan border are taking place in Central America which, globally speaking, is still our neighborhood: It should not surprise us that war zone-like conditions with record-high murder rates would produce refugees on a large scale as horror stories continue to spread from gang-controlled areas. With so much of the violence revolving around gangs wanting children either for easy sex or gang recruitment, it should surprise us even less that many of these refugees fleeing to our borders are children, and they are fleeing in the tens of thousands.

Like everything else happening in our country, the children on the border have been dragged into our political discourse, and it instantly turned ugly when the news network spotlight hit it. At the top of the headlines are the high profile clashes resulting in arrests of protestors in Murrieta, California, that are symbolic of a divide in the country on immigration. There is an easy political observation to make on those two crowds: the pro-immigrant group is larger, but the anti-immigrant group seems more likely to vote in an off-year primary.

The latter category has fueled political careers, such as Bob Goodlatte's (R-VA), Rick Perry (R-TX) and Ted Cruz' (R-TX). All have been playing the same political game and blamed Obama: Rick Perry said something that sounded like a vague conspiracy theory about Obama perhaps helping the children to the border because they travelled so far, while Cruz and Goodlatte claim that the border children are a direct result of Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

"If the president wants to stop this problem, he should enforce our immigration laws and quit using his pen and phone to create administrative legalization programs, which he doesn't have the authority to do under the law," said Goodlatte, echoing the sentiments of Cruz and others in his caucus. This statement helps to highlight the ignorance of GOP leadership in the House.

For starters, the children who qualify for DACA have been here at least since 2007, and so none of these new children will qualify; Obama has harshly enforced immigration law, earning the nickname the "Deporter In Chief" as he deports more immigrants than any previous President; other than DACA, Obama has issued no major administrative change on immigration, so the "imperial presidency" they're trying to paint on Breitbart.com and Fox News really hasn't been particularly imperial.

Let's not be too kind to Obama, however: even though he has asked Congress for $3.7 billion to address the situation, this is not for humanitarian aid, rather, to create a more efficient deportation machine. "...we believe we can [protect children] and make the process more efficient and more quick so that children who do not qualify for humanitarian relief of some kind are more swiftly returned to their home countries," said a White House Official.

Securing the due process rights of children who are often not legally represented in court will not be easy: while it would be a difficult enough trip through the broken immigration system for myself with my law degree and 31 years of life experience, doing it at the age of four without being able to speak the same language as the judge means that the process child refugees are put through is confusing and, often, meaningless. Spending billions to set up a "rocket docket" may just be a way to try to get the problem back to Central America and placate some opposition without actually helping these children to get through this humanitarian crisis.

Obama is once again sacrificing policy to help pacify opposition and build political capitol, the problem is that the opposition is never satisfied, and the political capitol he should have earned deporting more immigrants than any other President never materialized: Ted Cruz (R-TX) is going to call Obama "lawless" on immigration regardless of his enforcement of strict policies, and the spitting, screaming base that follows Cruz and comes out to scare child refugees won't stop screaming until every last child is thrown back. Even if they are thrown to people that literally gang rape and butcher 13-year-old girls to have their dismembered corpses spell out a message about what happens to girls that refuse them.

It is not as though this decision is a clear-cut for the Administration. If they offer any help to these children, Sarah Palin will redouble her calls for impeachment as she desperately whores her political name out for one last hit of that sweet media spotlight that gave her a reality show at it's zenith: maybe they'll let her cheerlead at the next convention and, looking at her career, she has been a more effective cheerleader for a shrinking GOP Tea Party than anything else.

For Palin, Cruz and others claiming Tea Party cred, grandstanding and artificial outrage has become a fixture within contemporary American politics. This is still going to be trouble for Obama, however, as he attempts to write an executive order on immigration amidst cries of "imperial presidency" from the right: this entire child refugee issue has exploded just as Obama is writing an executive order on immigration, and the waters will be as muddied as those on the right who have unreasonably opposed immigration for years can make it.

Advocates are quick to point out the refugee crisis and 11.7 million undocumented immigrants we have in our country are two separate issues as these children in different situations than a woman who has lived in the country for 30 years and has three citizen children. The average Fox News viewer does not appreciate this, however, and the rightward-leaning news outlets are trying to sell outrage over these issues as a package deal.

Obama knows that a small but still significant minority within the GOP is ready to be whipped into a frenzy over this issue as they deal with the reality of white people (which I believe the protesters in Murrieta were entirely) no longer having as many advantages as they used to. This is largely a product of minority demographics, and their political representation, growing, while at the same time institutions to protect older vestments of political power that were racially discriminatory continue to be dismantled; it's true, we do still have SB 1070's and restrictive voting laws come up, but they are met with fierce resistance from a broad segment of the country who are willing to point a finger at AZ Gov. Jan Brewer and say "bigot."

Historically speaking, the people who are panicking over immigration are largely scared of their country's changing ethnic makeup coupled with insecurity over job availability. They push for more and more deportations, and are basically the same kinds of people flipped out when they lost their "whites only" accommodations with the civil rights movement.

Quite frankly, there's a whole lotta gang rape and murder of children in the hellholes that many kids already died in the desert trying to escape, so much so that the debate has taken on bit of a cartoonish, black and white, Child's First Bible sort of good and evil narrative: now our country decides whether or not we throw children on our front step to the wolves.