President Obama announced this weekend that he is delaying a planned executive action to prevent the deportation of many of the undocumented immigrants living in the United States.
In an interview with Chuck Todd, Obama pinned the delay on Americans’ reactions to the thousands of unaccompanied minors from Central America fleeing to the southern border this summer: “This problem with unaccompanied children that we saw a couple weeks ago, where you had from Central America a surge of kids who are showing up at the border, got a lot of attention. And a lot of Americans started thinking, ‘We’ve got this immigration crisis on our hands.’”
Obama appears to have been referring to the anti-immigrant movement’s success at pushing two big lies about the unaccompanied minors: first, that they illustrated lax border enforcement and second, that they were lured by Obama’s immigration policies.
The first big lie, that the unaccompanied minors exhibited weakness of border enforcement, was far from the truth. In fact, most of the unaccompanied minors sought out border patrol officials in an effort to seek asylum.
However, the anti-immigrant movement and Republican allies sought to exploit the crisis to push their “enforcement first” message on immigration reform. Texas Gov. Rick Perry dispatched hundreds of members of the Texas National Guard to the border, who have found themselves with little to do. A GOP bill to address the border crisis, designed by Rep. Steve King, provided funds for even more states to send National Guard troops to the border. Meanwhile, the anti-immigrant right pushed any number of conspiracy theories about the child “invaders,” including that they were bringing exotic diseases including Ebola into the country and might even be “trained as warriors ” to fight Americans.
The second big lie was the Right’s effort to tie the unaccompanied minors to President Obama’s executive order deferring deportation for some DREAMers. House Republicans promoted this myth when they voted to repeal the deportation relief for DREAMers as a response to the unaccompanied minors crisis. But, as we wrote at the time, that argument is based on anti-immigrant fearmongering, not on fact:
As soon as the border crisis became national news, anti-immigrant groups started trying to blame it on Obama’s DACA order. But the link just wasn’t there.
The reality is that the border crisis is a separate issue altogether. The number of unaccompanied minors from Central America fleeing to the southern border started growing far before the DACA order in response to increasing drug-war-related violence in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador.
Anti-immigrant advocates also cite rumors among migrants that those who come to the United States are given a “permiso,” or permit, to stay. But stories on this rumor make clear that it stems from notices to appear in court that are given to some undocumented immigrants who are allowed to stay in the country while their cases are pending, and has nothing to do with the DREAM Act or DACA.