On radio this morning, Mike Broomhead filled in for Glenn and welcomed fellow Arizonan, Congressman Matt Salmon (R-AZ) to the program to discuss the situation at the border. Salmon is a member of the House Immigration Reform Caucus, and he is also working to secure the release of Marine Corps Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi who has remained locked in a Mexican prison since March 31.
Salmon has spent a tremendous amount of time at border towns in both Texas and Arizona over the last several months. He has seen first hand the overcrowded border patrol outposts and the difficulty border patrol agents are having simply doing their jobs. Salmon blames this humanitarian crisis – which will see some 60,000 unaccompanied illegal immigrant children cross the border this year alone – on the “lackadaisical enforcement attitude” of the Obama Administration.
Salmon recently visited the border patrol facility in Nogales, Arizona where agents are working closely with the thousands of children who have poured across the border, and he explained that morale at the outpost is particularly low.
“[Morale is] abysmal because they're cops. They want to enforce the law. They want very, very much to be able to do their job,” Salmon explained. “And in my conversations with them and their leaders, they said, ‘It's not a problem with our resources. We have enough people right now to get the job done. It's the fact that our bosses and this Administration is tying our hands and not lets us do what we know and should have to do.’”
Salmon went on to describe the workflow at the facility, which has changed dramatically in recent months. The goal is to have the children at the facility for no more than 72 hours, and 140 agents have left their posts at the border to essentially babysit these kids.
“At the one in Nogales, they have 140 border patrol agents that have volunteered to come and do this – and by the way, they're all off of the border… basically baby-sitting these kids,” Salmon explained. “And they have a whole host of Health and Human Services employees that are screening them for health issues and immunizations and all that kind of stuff. And then the FEMA folks are there as well.”
“So they're supposed to be there no more than 72 hours,” he continued. “And then they're supposed to be able to either put them in some kind of a group home out in the community or what I call like a ‘foster home,’ until they can [be] reunited with their families. But the problem is that… many of them have family members here, but they're also here illegally.”
The situation is particularly dire when you consider many of these families are selling everything they have to be able to pay the cartels to transport their children. In many Central American countries, cartels and others with nefarious intent are actually advertising their services and claiming the U.S. will offer amnesty to those who make it across the border.
“We've got to fix this in it no time flat because these kids are ending up out in the community and there is no deterrent,” Salmon said. “These families are selling everything they own to pay $5,000 to $8,000 to the cartels to move their kids. If those kids were repatriated back to the country, then they'd find out it wasted money and it would stop. It would dry up.”
Salmon has also been on the front lines of trying to bring Sgt. Tahmooressi home from a Mexican prison following his arrest for weapons possession back in March. While the goal of having Tahmooressi reunited with his family by Fourth of July seems unlikely, Salmon believes good progress has been made.
“I believe that he has a very good attorney… I think that the Mexican authorities want out of this as much as we do… They're moving ahead,” Salmon explained. “When I last met with [Tahmooressi] about a week and a half ago, he was in good spirits. He was feeling optimistic. He's a young man with a lot of faith.”
Had the Obama Administration actually stepped in to help this soldier, Salmon believes this ordeal would have been over some time ago. Apparently the ethos of never leaving a man behind does not apply to this particular serviceman.
“It breaks my heart that somebody, you know, that has given so much to his country has had to, you know, languish in a Mexican prison for close to three months,” Salmon said, “when we probably could have gotten him out a lot quicker had the President made as much of a priority as he has, you know, with this young man in Afghanistan.”