Obama vow to speed deportation of children at odds with public opinion
WASHINGTON — President Obama's pledge to fast-track the deportation of migrant children from Central America is out of step with the opinion of a majority of Americans, who say the children should be allowed to stay in the United States, at least for a while.
The results of a Reuters/Ipsos poll highlight the complexity of the child migrant issue for Obama, who has sought to emphasize his compassion while insisting that his administration plans to send home most of the children, many of whom have fled violence.
The poll, conducted on July 31-Aug. 5, found that 51 percent of Americans believe the unaccompanied children who cross the U.S.-Mexico border should be allowed to remain in the country for some length of time.
That includes 38 percent who thought the unaccompanied youngsters should be sheltered and cared for until it was deemed safe for them to return home. Thirteen percent said the children should be allowed to stay in the United States, while 32 percent said the children should be immediately deported.
“Overall, people are humane and they understand that no matter what our situation is with the budget, whether or not we can afford this, these are kids. No matter what the immigration system is, they are innocent,” said Lance Lee, 42, of Alabama, who took part in the survey.
But Lee said he wants the border sealed to prevent a new wave of illegal migrants.
Between October and the end of July, nearly 63,000 unaccompanied children have flooded across the southwestern border. Many are from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.
Obama is widely regarded as acting, at least in part, because of election-year pressure from Republicans, who say he has not moved swiftly enough to curb the influx.
The Justice Department is placing child migrants on a faster track for deportation hearings, and the White House has called for changes to a 2008 law, intended to combat human trafficking, that bars the immediate removal of Central American children.
Those policies have angered some of Obama's Democratic allies in Congress and Hispanic groups that represent an important base of the president's political support.
Democratic Rep. Luis Gutierrez, a leading advocate in Congress of immigration reform, has vehemently criticized the fast-track policy.
“We should not take short-cuts and circumvent due process at this critical time when children are fleeing violence and asking for our help,” Gutierrez said in a statement.
At the same time, Republicans have sharply criticized Obama's policies, saying his 2012 decision to give temporary deportation relief to some young people brought to the United States by their parents had encouraged the border influx.