Mike Littwin: Ted Cruz’s humanitarian crisis
Ted Cruz nearly had me. I went to see the Texas senator at the Western Conservative Summit because I have a soft spot for troublemakers, particularly smart ones, and Cruz definitely is both. He’s the guy hardly anyone likes who is considering running for president. No one has pulled that off since Nixon, and we know how that turned out. Sure I had to see him.
And there he was, saying that, like President Barack Obama, he thinks the crisis on the border is a humanitarian crisis, and that the real victims are the tens of thousands of unaccompanied kids who have made the terrifying journey from Central America. And it’s worse, he said, than you think — that these kids have been traumatized, abused and more. He offers up terrifying details.
But, of course, that only was the start for Cruz, who is doing all he can to stop any Senate compromise on Obama’s $3.7 billion request to address the crisis. This is the same Cruz who pushed the government to a shutdown. It’s the Cruz who looks at a crisis and sees a potential showdown.
And so, he gives a three-part critique:
One, he said the crisis is all Obama’s fault, except for the part of the blame that belongs to Harry Reid.
Two, he said that that if Obama, the Senate and the country would just give up on the DREAM Act and, of course, “amnesty,” that the crisis would resolve itself.
And three, he said the humane thing to do is to send the traumatized and abused kids back where they came from, now. Which isn’t all that different from what Obama is saying: To send back most of the kids — those who can’t prove refugee status — soon.
Still, try to work that one out. Trauma. Abuse. Deportation. No trial or hearing. Humane. Which one doesn’t belong?
It’s a tricky business, and Cruz doesn’t exactly pull it off. He blames Obama who, he said, “unilaterally granted amnesty to 800,000 who had entered here as children. It was specifically targeted at children.”
He said that’s what caused the spike in unaccompanied children at the border. And that “the only way to stop the problem is to stop the promise of amnesty.”
Unless it’s to finally pass the long-broken promise of immigration reform — which Cruz, the son of a Cuban immigrant, has strongly opposed — and to stop using the word “amnesty” in every other sentence, particularly when Obama hasn’t given amnesty to anyone.
In any event, Cruz makes a better case than Rick Perry, another Texan who’s probably running for president. Perry had just returned from another trip to Iowa in time to announce that he’s sending 1,000 National Guard troops to the border. Even though no one has asked for them. And even though the Guard can’t legally detain anyone or physically move anyone back across the border or do much except support the Border Patrol, which hasn’t asked for their support.
“I will not stand idly by while our citizens are under assault and little children from Central America are detained in squalor,” said Perry, who had previously suggested that the Obama administration was part of a conspiracy to bring little Central American children to America where eventually they would escape the squalor and become Democrats.
And here’s the kicker: The state of Texas is sending in the troops, which no one has asked for, and plans to send the bill to Washington. The cost is about $12 million per month — for what Perry is calling “Operation Strong Safety,” which sounds like a football play. It would be almost funny, except for humanitarian-crisis part.
That’s the part Cruz wants to stress. He told of going recently to Lackland Air Force Base, where 1,200 kids were being kept. He said senior officials there told him what happens after families give their children to the coyotes, who work for the drug cartels.
“Sometimes these drug cartels would keep these kids hostage,” Cruz said at a news conference following his Denver speech, “and try to extract ransoms from the families. And if the families won’t, or can’t, pay more, horrifically these drug cartels are severing body parts from these children and sending them to the families. And the same official at Lackland described to me how they would put a machine gun to the head of a little boy or girl and force that child to cut off a finger or an ear of other little boys or girls. And so on our end, we’re having children who have been … horribly maimed, others of whom who have serious psychological damage…”
And so, I ask him, how exactly can it be humane to just send back maimed and psychologically damaged children to someplace where they might be maimed and damaged again.
He didn’t answer the question. He talked instead about “reuniting” children with their families, as if their families hadn’t just spent a year’s salary to try to get these kids to the United States.
It’s a fair argument to ask what has caused the surge of children on the border. Is it the terrible violence in Honduras — now the world’s murder capital — as well as El Salvador and Guatemala that has turned these kids into refugees? Or is it the chance that what Cruz calls “amnesty” — Obama’s executive order to defer deportation of those who arrived here as children by 2007 — would include them in 2014?
The answer is obvious. It’s not one thing that caused the surge. It’s never one thing. Which is where Cruz’s argument finally falls apart. Does he really think parents would continue to send their kids off with drug cartels to be maimed, killed or worse for an oft-broken promise? I didn’t even have to watch him speak to promise that he doesn’t.