Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) suggested Thursday that if President Barack Obama is concerned about the well-being of thousands of unaccompanied children who have fled violence in their home countries in Central America, then perhaps he should "send a boat down to pick them up."
In an interview with MSNBC's Jose Diaz-Balart, the congressman urged the president to visit the border and issue a message to Central American families not to send their children north on such treacherous journey. While Obama and various other White House officials have already issued such warnings, Burgess argued a border visit would amplify the message and persuade desperate parents from sending their children to the United States.
Diaz-Balart then posed a hypothetical question to the congressman. "If you are a small child in a backward town in Guatemala, and you see gang members raping your sister or killing your brother, and then they're coming after you," he said, "do you think a politician, be it a president or a congressman or a journalist saying 'don't come here,' is going to be more important than you trying to save your life and have a future for your family?"
Burgess, who has proposed cutting U.S. aid to Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Mexico by $15,000 per child who emigrated from those countries, responded by suggesting a different form of humanitarian assistance.
"Well, let's just make sure we're talking about the same thing," he said. "If it's just a question of going and rescuing children in Central America if their governments are so failed and can't take care of their own population, then perhaps the president should send a boat down to pick them up. Don't send them on top of a train across Mexico -- that's heartless. That's being complicit in child trafficking."
The idea is a novel one, and it may even fall to the left of Democrats in Congress who oppose changing a 2008 trafficking law that has exacerbated the problem.
Republicans have, for the most part, spent the majority of their time in Congress proposing ways to stop undocumented immigrants from entering the country, like ending an Obama administration policy that halted deportations of young undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children. They have not, however, suggested solutions that would offer immigrants a ticket to the United States, only to turn them around once they arrived.
Earlier this month, Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) suggested another method of transportation for anyone who entered the country illegally. "Illegal aliens," he said, should be put "on the next plane home."