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Northern sheriffs get close-up look at border crisis

20140717 Sheriffs Border Tour lg-08The tens of thousands unaccompanied immigrant children who have been caught this year at the border are being bused and flown to facilities across the country where they will be housed and cared for in make-shift camps until they are released to family. As a result, many officials in northern states are taking a sudden interest in this crisis and are demanding to know what is being done to deter future waves of children from coming to America illegally.

Last week six sheriffs from across the country were given the opportunity to take a ride on two of the Texas Highway Patrol speed and gun boats that have been patrolling the Rio Grande south of Mission since this crisis began.

Susan Tully, as the Federation for American Immigration Reform’s (FAIR’s) National Field director, helped organize the tour. Tully said FAIR is a nonprofit public policy organization out of Washington, D.C., that has been in place 35 years. Supporters of FAIR believe immigration policies should benefit America and Americans first and foremost, she said.

“What we’re doing down here in the Rio Grande Valley is all about public education of our law enforcement officials so that they can see exactly what is going on along the border,” Tully said. “The true story is not being told by most of the media so we felt it was important for these sheriffs to see the situation down here first-hand.”

She said sheriffs were strategically picked from across the country so they can in turn go back and share what they learned with their colleagues.

While public education was one of the objectives of the northern sheriffs’ visit to the Valley last week, Tully said FAIR’s ultimate goal is to change the nation’s current immigration laws.

“One of the reasons we came down here was to talk to the people who are having to deal with this crisis on a daily basis,” said Tully. “Without fai,l they all agree that the first thing we need to do is to change the 2008 law that requires them to treat minors from other countries differently than they do those from Mexico. That we need to change that legislation because between that and the (Obama) administration granting DACA (deferred action for childhood arrivals) telling children and young people that if they show up here we’re going to legalize them somehow is a perfect storm for what’s going on down here.”

The six sheriffs that toured the Rio Grande on the Texas Highway Department boats last week were Lewis Evangelidis (Worchester County, Massachusetts), Charles Jenkins (Fredericks County, Maryland), Sam Page (Rockingham County, North Carolina), Tony Childress (Livingston County, Illinois), Ken Matlack (Morrow County, Oregon) and Thomas Hodgson (Bristol County, Massachusetts).

As the six sheriffs stood on the boat dock at Anzalduas Park shortly after their ride-along with state troopers, Hodgson said the group met with Hidalgo County Sheriff Eddie Guerra as well as Border Patrol personnel.

“Seeing as how a number of us are having to deal with individuals who are being sent from here to our home states, we need to know what kind of problems they’re dealing with along the border because with the movement of these individuals all over the country we’re all becoming border states,” Hodgson said.

“We’re going to be mobilizing sheriffs across this country to demand that Congress, as well as the president, act to secure these borders once and for all. We’ve been asking for it for decades and while a lot of people are referring to this as a humanitarian crisis, those of us who have our boots on the ground and have been working to get our federal government to secure our border over these years see it as a leadership crisis. Therein lays our problem.”

According to Customs and Border Protection reports, CBP has apprehended 57,525 unaccompanied alien children along the Southwest Border between October 2013 and June 2014 -- a 106 percent increase over the same period a year ago. During the same period CBP also apprehended 55,420 family units crossing the border illegally -- a 493 percent increase over last year.

In the Rio Grande Sector there have been 42,164 unaccompanied alien children and 42,358 family unit apprehensions since last October. These represent increases of 189 percent and over 500 percent, respectively.

Other than Mexican apprehensions reported from October through June were 154,606 for the Rio Grande Sector and 202,951 for the Southwest Border.

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