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Opinion

Political fallout from underage illegal immigrants may spread far from the Rio Grande Valley

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Michael Barone,Immigration,Bill Clinton,National Security,Border Security,Honduras,El Salvador,Guatemala

The flood of underage--and many not-so-underage--illegal immigrants from the Central American countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador crested in the Rio Grande Valley, but now the waters are being diverted and channeled to other parts of the United States.

Well, maybe that metaphor is a bit labored, but my point is that these young and not-so-young people are being transported to various parts of the country, to be put under the care of relatives, we are told, though it's not so clear that the caregivers are always relatives. My former Washington Examiner colleague Joel Gehrke, now at National Review, highlights the at least fragmentary evidence that some are being turned over to human traffickers. Those are exactly the kind of people that a near-unanimous Congress tried to keep them away from by passing the William Wilberforce anti-trafficking law in 2008.

Two other National Review Corner items merit attention. In one Ryan Lovelace references Senator Mark Kirk's concerns about the Heartland Alliance, a group to whose care the Department of Health and Human Services has apparently consigned some 400 children. Kirk is concerned that Heartland Alliance staff may have criminal records.

In the other, Lovelace quotes the chief of staff of the mayor of Lynn, Mass., about how many Guatemalan “children” were sent there and placed in public schools. “Some of them have had gray hair and they're telling you that they're 17 years old and they have no documentation,” the official is quoted as saying.

The picture of thousands of illegal youngsters streaming over the border is disquieting and seems likely to hurt the president's standing with voters--even despite his refusal to submit to a “photo-op” on the border. Democrats are trying to blame the situation on House Republicans' refusal to pass comprehensive immigration legislation. That seems pretty lame: There's nothing in the bill the Senate passed in June 2013 that addressed this particular situation. As this article in the Hill makes plain, perhaps despite the writer's intention, this is a troublesome situation for Democrats whose names are on the ballot this fall.

And the negative fallout is apparently not limited geographically. The national media may get tired of stories about young illegals crossing the border in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. But as these youngsters are sent to places as distant as Chicago and Lynn, Mass., other troublesome stories are likely to emerge, on local newscasts (which are often starved for news) if not on Obama-protective mainstream media.

Nor are Hispanics necessarily sympathetic with the border-crossers. A Washington Post new story quotes Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke as favoring “greater emphasis on the interests of these children who are refugees from extreme violence” instead of “an acceleration of the deportation process at the expense of these children.” But the Post reporters note that “O'Rourke added that he has been surprised by the anger he has heard toward the immigrants of many of his El Paso constituents, who ‘feel like we can't take care of everyone, and these children and their families are gaming the system.' ” O'Rourke's district, which includes most of El Paso County, is 79 percent Hispanic.

Oldtimers may remember that the influx of Mariel refugees from Cuba hurt Jimmy Carter in the 1980 election. Carter failed to carry Florida, where many refugees were housed, and Arkansas, where many were sent to Fort Chaffee. Also defeated that year were some incumbent Democrats who hadn't seemed to be in great trouble: U.S. Sen. Richard Stone of Florida and a young governor of Arkansas named Bill Clinton. Most current voters were not alive in 1980 or have forgotten the political fallouts from the Mariel influx. I'm sure Bill Clinton hasn't. I suspect that, if asked, he might have some advice for Democrats in states to which the underage illegals are being sent.

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