West Texas Representatives Talk Border Crisis In Light of Obama Visit

West Texas Representatives Talk Border Crisis In Light of Obama Visit

Anum Valliani

NewsWest 9

AUSTIN -  The situation at the southern border has become a humanitarian crisis. Wednesday leaders, including President Obama met in Austin to find a solution to dealing with the thousands of undocumented people flooding into Texas. Some areas have even begun sheltering the predominantly children fleeing from violence in their nations.

Congressman Mike Conaway of District 11 held a town hall while there, where a majority of the questions were about how to deal with the border issue, and what his stance was. In a statement he issued earlier, he voiced the concerns of many West Texans- to send back the illegal immigrants.

A local immigration lawyer said that it may not be so easy because those people have some rights here, despite not being citizens. According to Daniel Caudillo, people seeking refuge from their home country have a legal right to request a hearing before an immigration judge, and that's what they're trying to get.

But Caudillo said the immigration courts are so backlogged- with almost 400,000 cases-that it often times take years to have an immigration court hearing. So the problem becomes what to do with them while they're here.

"The camps that they have is not a proper or a humanitarian way for them to detain these individuals, these children, so that's the first thing that needs to be done. How can we release them to their family members that are here in the United States if they have somebody or otherwise, find a safer, more humane way of taking care of them while they're in these formal proceedings? In other words we can't have them in jails and prisons, these are children, and this is a civil proceeding," Caudillo explained.

On top of that, he said leaders have to make sure they don't fall victim to sex trafficking or a major health issue. Conaway said that's where Obama needs to step in. He said the meeting was an opportunity for officials to force the president to draw up a clear plan of action.

"The president owes us a plan for how he's going to make all this happen and it needs to be in relatively specific terms opposed to the broad generalities that have been his conversations so far," he said.

Conaway believes "selective enforcement and mixed messages" by the president seemingly giving the okay to the people already here is a huge factor that led to this crisis. He claims an idea went south of the border, and spread like wildfire, that if they could just make it into the US they would be able to stay forever.

"That was communicated in churches and broadcast and all kinds of things, and now moms and dad's believe its in their children's best interests to put them in the custody of a coyote or a drug thug and try to escort them or transport them to the United States. And that's a horrible thing for those parents to do," he said.

"I understand that they're desperate, but this president needs to communicate with the president of Mexico and Honduras, and Guatemala, and El Salvador, to work with those countries and say to stop this.

Conaway also criticized the Department of Homeland Security on the matter, stating, "I am disappointed and discouraged by your lack of preparedness and failure to communicate with Congress or the American people your plans to cope with this humanitarian crisis. It is DHS's responsibility to secure our borders and protect our citizens; yet the Administration's shortcomings continue to put the public health and safety of our Texas communities in jeopardy."

But according to Caudillo, this is a vulnerable population. that needs more care than anyone else. "We still have secure borders. These children aren't coming and getting caught crossing the border, they're actually turning themselves in immediately upon entering the country," he explained.

Although President Obama and Governor Perry did attend the meeting in Austin Wednesday, Conaway doesn't feel too confident it will make a difference in pushing the president to offer a resolution. But Conaway does say West Texas won't be voluntarily housing illegal immigrant soon.

As for Caudillo, he just feels the ones here should just get the chance for amnesty.

"Now I'm not advocating that they be allowed to stay, but I am advocating that they be given a fair chance before an immigration judge to present their case," he said. "There's been a number of individuals we've protected, we always have, and it's something we should be proud of as a nation."