CENTER FOR IMMIGRATION STUDIES — Jorge Mario Cabrera is the spokesman for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles. He is also Univision’s go-to guy for denunciations of efforts to enforce immigration law.
Last night, Univision’s newscast went to Cabrera again. This time he directed his fury at the arrest of 18-year-old Henry Sanchez of Guatemala by ICE agents. Sanchez came illegally to the United States about a year ago to be with his parents, who came — apparently illegally — more than 10 years ago. Those circumstances made Sanchez a high priority for arrest according to standards adopted by the Obama administration. Those standards made his parents a low priority.
Cabrera was particularly upset that Sanchez was arrested the morning after he participated in a protest against the deportations policy. That policy is an attempt, however weak and easily avoided, to stem the ongoing influx of people fleeing Central America. They are generally guided by smugglers who charge thousands of dollars to deliver people to the north bank of the Rio Grande. While many are coming either for economic opportunity or to join relatives who are already here, nearly all request political asylum in the United States. They claim to be fleeing gangs, domestic abuse, or other forms of social disorder in their homelands.
The federal government is overwhelmed by the influx. The Border Patrol is releasing hundreds of Central Americans each week. They are free to go where they want, having received a formal document that is know as an “order to appear” in immigration court for a hearing. But because the immigration courts are also overwhelmed, the hearings typically won’t take place until 2017 or 2018 and migrants frequently don’t show up on the appointed date. Many vanish into the vastness of the United States. That’s why Border Patrol agents ruefully call the documents they hand out “orders to disappear.” They are frustrated by what has become a national embarrassment and a symbol of governmental inability to govern.