The Obama administration knew of the impending crisis on the U.S.–Mexico border as early as 2012 but chose to ignore the warning signs in light of political considerations, sources told The Washington Post in a story published days before President Obama meets with the leaders of three Central American countries.
A former senior federal law enforcement official told the Post that numerous government agencies were “ringing alarm bells” within the Obama administration—warnings that went continually unanswered.
“There were warning signs, operational folks raising red flags to high levels in terms of this being a potential issue,” said the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The looming immigration crisis was developing as Obama campaigned for a second term. Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-CA, recalls that lawmakers understood the gravity of the situation but feared the political blowback.
“That was always a concern of mine: How to address the issue in a way that did not detract from the need for comprehensive immigration reform,” Roybal-Allard said.
Another anonymous source, this one with access to White House internal deliberations, told the Post that the Obama administration wanted to focus on overarching reform rather than an immediate solution.
“Was the White House told there were huge flows of Central Americans coming? Of course they were told. A lot of times. Was there a general lack of interest and a focus on the legislation? Yes, that’s where the focus was.’’
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Meanwhile, a host of politicians, advocacy groups, and faith initiatives continued to decry federal inaction. In April 2012, Texas Gov. Rick Perry urged Obama “to take immediate action” and return unaccompanied minors to their home countries.
In an open letter to Obama, the Republican governor warned that “every child allowed to remain encourages hundreds more to attempt the journey.”
The Washington Post reports that Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement budget ballooned from $149 million in 2011 to $376 million in 2013, as the number of unaccompanied minors spiked from 3,933 to 20,805 in the same time.
Earlier this month, Obama asked Congress to approve an emergency funding package to address the issue. Republicans contend the president’s proposal lacks border security measures.
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