The Border Crisis Takes a Pause From Politics

A teenage immigrant who was detained at the border is held inside Texas' McAllen Border Patrol Station July 15. A teenage immigrant who was detained at the border is held inside Texas' McAllen Border Patrol Station July 15. Rick Loomis/AP

The street was one that Saul Martinez traveled often. He took it on his way to school, where he would avoid gang members, fearing recruitment. And he'd use it on his way home, where he'd grab his bicycle only to receive death threats from gang members during his ride.

And one day, on that street in El Salvador, the same street he lived on, he saw a man die after being shot multiple times.

Wearing a crisp button-down shirt and khaki pants, the 15-year-old calmly told his story to a panel of Congress members at a Congressional Progressive Caucus ad-hoc hearing Tuesday afternoon. He told of living in fear in a country where gang members recruit young children and where a refusal can have serious consequences.

In April, he crossed the U.S.-Mexico border, just one of the tens of thousands of children fleeing Central America's Northern Triangle to seek refuge in the United States.

"I don't want to go back to my country because I don't want to die," he told the caucus in Spanish Tuesday afternoon.

A hearing of this kind is largely symbolic. But after the last few weeks of political scrambling over an emergency supplemental bill, the ad-hoc hearing put the children back in the spotlight.

On Tuesday, the border crisis was a centerpiece on Capitol Hill, much like it's been since the July Fourth recess. House Republicans unveiled a plan to allocate $659 million for emergency supplemental funds. The House Judiciary Committee held a hearing to examine the White House's policies for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. And political sparring ensued over the possibility of the Senate attempting to add comprehensive immigration reform to any House-passed bill.

There's little time left before the August recess to reconcile the political divides between the House's $659 million and the Senate's $2.7 billion border crisis plan. The possibility of changes to a 2008 anti-trafficking law has become a main sticking point for both parties. House Republicans favor tweaks to allow Central American children to opt for voluntary removal; many Democrats and immigration advocates disagree.

The bill coming to the House floor does not contain "adequate resources" for legal services for children—who often go without representation—nor does it call for a sufficient number of immigration judges, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said at the ad-hoc hearing Tuesday. This issue is more than just politics, Pelosi said.

"It's not just about having a heart," she said. "It's about having a soul."

The Congressional Progressive Caucus and House Democrats have their eyes on bringing the attention back on the children, which could help build their case that an emergency supplemental with ample funds is needed.

On Tuesday, three children sat in front of members to explain just why they crossed the border and their dealings with U.S. agencies upon their arrival.

Dulce Medina, 15, told of a man in Guatemala who tried to sexually assault her and her cousin while they were walking to her school.

Mayeli Hernandez, 12, told of witnessing two murders in Honduras.

And Saul Martinez told of how there was too little food and one bathroom for 200 children in the U.S. detention facilities' quarters.

And as the ad-hoc hearing concluded—and though it holds no real political weight—the Congressional Progressive Caucus had thrust the children's stories back into the limelight. At least for a little while.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.