Incentivizing Risk and Trauma

Many advocates of Rep. Jeffrey Denham (R-CA) 34%‘s Encourage Newly Legalized Immigrants to Start Training (ENLIST) Act have clung fiercely to the claim that they are acting in the compassionate interests of unlawful immigrant minors seeking asylum.

Little has been said, however, about the perverse and perilous incentives this policy would create. If the bipartisan congressional coalition is successful in passing a bill to legalize DREAMers by way of military enlistment, the law will inevitably (and has already begun to) encourage families to send young kids into the country by any means necessary, no matter how costly or dangerous the route.

According to the Washington Times, authorities are anticipating more than 90,000 children will be apprehended on the U.S. side of the border this year and more than 140,000 to be caught next year. “That doesn’t include,” the Times went on, “the tens of thousands more who avoid capture.”

In a draft memo dated May 30, Border Patrol Deputy Chief Ronald D. Vitiello explained that the unexpected surge of unlawful minors is distracting Homeland Security from other critical duties, including going after gunrunners, drug smugglers and adult illegal immigrants. He continued: “If the U.S. government fails to deliver adequate consequences to deter aliens from attempting to illegally enter the U.S., the result will be an even greater increase in the rate of recidivism and first-time illicit entries.”

recent budget proposal from the Department of Health and Human Services illustrates the spike from 6,560 unaccompanied alien children in FY 2011 to 60,000 in FY 2014. This represents an 815 percent increase in three years, seemingly linked to reports of whole-scale DREAMer legislation and, more recently, to whispers of ENLIST. In fact, 47,000 children have been apprehended at the southwest border in the past eight months alone.

Each new entry represents another child placed in harm’s way lured by a politician’s promise that breaking the law will be rewarded. This trend is even reflected in the Obama Administration’s demand for additional fiscal support. The President’s team recently acknowledged they have underestimated how much money agencies will need to handle a continued increase in unaccompanied immigrant minors from Central America trying to cross the Mexican border. As a result, the administration is now asking Congress for an extra $1.4 billion. As the Associated Press reports:

In a two-page letter to Sen. Barbara Mikulski, the chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, the Office of Management and Budget said the increase in children trying to cross the border alone has created an “acute humanitarian situation” that could cost the government as much as $2.28 billion. The Obama administration originally asked Congress for $868 million for the “Unaccompanied Alien Children” program run by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the same amount Congress approved last year.

Deese said the Homeland Security Department would also need an extra $166 million to help pay overtime costs for Customs and Border Protection officers and agents, contract services for care of the children and transportation costs.

As Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions said in his statement:

The rising crisis at the border is the direct and predictable result of actions taken by President Obama. He and his Administration have announced to the world that they will not enforce America’s immigration laws, and have emphasized in particular that foreign youth will be exempted from these laws. The world has heard the President’s call, and illegal immigrants are pouring across the border in pursuit of his promised amnesty. President Obama is responsible for this calamity, and only by declaring to the world that our border is no longer open — and that the law will be restored — can this emergency be stopped.

The costs are piling up at an unforeseen rate as minors continue to drudge across hazardous terrain, pursuing the American dream in the wrong way at the encouragement of a wayward political class. Most alarmingly of all, the level to which this problem will surge in the coming years is simply unpredictable. As the HHS Budget in Brief concludes:

Due to the volatile nature of this program and ongoing discussions of a long term policy solution, the Administration is not able to reliably predict the number of Unaccompanied Alien Children who will arrive in FY 2015 at this time.

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