The border crisis has reached historic levels under the Biden administration, but one of the many roots of this crisis extends beyond the current administration. This episode of Parsing Immigration Policy highlights the Flores settlement, an agreement that established requirements for the federal government’s detention of unaccompanied alien children (UACs) and requires their release “without unnecessary delay”. This week, we are joined by Hart Celler, the pseudonym of a Marine Corps veteran and longtime federal employee involved in immigration policy.
Celler walks listeners through the general history of Flores, from the start of the lawsuit in 1985 to the initial agreement in 1997 to today. A key development occurred under the Obama administration when Judge Dolly Gee re-interpreted the agreement to cover all alien children, not just those who arrive without a parent or legal guardian. Children who arrive with an adult are not generally released alone, so the U.S. government ends up releasing the adult and the child together. Celler refers to this as a “golden ticket” for entry into the U.S. for any illegal alien who brings a child. This practice encourages and rewards adults – some of whom are not even be the child’s parent – to bring children on the dangerous journey to the U.S.
Celler provides potential solutions for Congress to eliminate the magnet for child migration and highlights how organizations purporting to advocate for child welfare are actually putting these children in harm’s way. “The groups that are representing the [unaccompanied alien] children don’t want the children detained ever, at any point, for any reason, and don’t seem to be bothered by the fact that the government releases them to … literal strangers, and doesn’t follow up with them.”
In his closing commentary, Mark Krikorian, host of the podcast and executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, discusses negotiations over the supplemental funding bill in the Senate, which would include funding for more personnel on the border. Negotiations have been ongoing, as Senate Republicans have demanded policy changes from the Biden administration, rather than simply providing more resources. As Krikorian explains, the primary sticking point is the insistence by Republicans on narrowing the president's authority to parole illegal aliens into the country, an authority Democrats and the administration want to keep as broad as possible.
Mark Krikorian is the Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies.
Hart Celler is the pseudonym of a Marine Corps veteran and longtime federal employee involved in immigration policy.
Voices in the opening montage:
- Sen. Barack Obama at a 2005 press conference.
- Sen. John McCain in a 2010 election ad.
- President Lyndon Johnson, upon signing the 1965 Immigration Act.
- Booker T. Washington, reading in 1908 from his 1895 Atlanta Exposition speech.
- Laraine Newman as a "Conehead" on SNL in 1977.
- Hillary Clinton in a 2003 radio interview.
- Cesar Chavez in a 1974 interview.
- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaking to reporters in 2019.
- Prof. George Borjas in a 2016 C-SPAN appearance.
- Sen. Jeff Sessions in 2008 comments on the Senate floor.
- Charlton Heston in "Planet of the Apes".