News / USA

Obama's Vow to Speed Deportation of Children at Odds with Public Opinion

Migrants from Central America hold candles during a protest demanding a reform in U.S. immigration laws which regulate the illegal exodus of children into the U.S., and to provide protection for them, outside the U.S. embassy in Mexico City, August 9, 201
Migrants from Central America hold candles during a protest demanding a reform in U.S. immigration laws which regulate the illegal exodus of children into the U.S., and to provide protection for them, outside the U.S. embassy in Mexico City, August 9, 201
Reuters

President Barack 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 also insisting that his administration plans to send home most of the children, many of whom have fled violence in their homelands.

The poll, conducted on July 31-Aug. 5, found that 51 percent of Americans believe the unaccompanied children being detained at the U.S.-Mexico border should be allowed to remain in the country for some length of time.

That included 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 wanted to see the border sealed to prevent another wave of illegal migrants entering the United States.

Between October 2013 and the end of July of this year, nearly 63,000 unaccompanied children have flooded across the southwestern U.S. border. Many are from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.

Concerned that smugglers are encouraging the influx by spreading rumors that the children will be allowed to stay in the United States, the Obama administration has toughened its public messaging, warning that newly arriving youngsters will be quickly sent home.

Obama is widely seen as acting, at least in part, because of intensifying 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.

Fast-track opposition

Those policies have angered some of Obama's Democratic allies in the U.S. Congress and Hispanic groups that represent an important base of the president's political support.

Democratic Representative Luis Gutierrez, a leading advocate in the U.S. Congress of immigration reform, has vehemently criticized the fast-track policy, which includes prioritizing children over adults at deportation hearings.

“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 emailed to Reuters.

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.

Emphasizing the compassionate side of the administration's policies, Vice President Joe Biden last week urged private law firms to offer the children free legal assistance.

“There's an awful lot of kids who need help. They need representation,” Biden said.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll showed that 48 percent of Democrats believe the children should be cared for until it is safe for them to return home, against 30 percent of Republicans and 37 percent of people who identified themselves as independents.

The question of where and how to house the children while they await deportation hearings has stirred strong responses in some communities where shelters were planned. There were fears the youngsters could bring crime and disease to neighborhoods and create an extra burden on public finances.

Flag-waving demonstrations took place in border cities like Oracle, Arizona while local government in communities such as such as Murrieta, California, and League City, Texas, voted to rejected any plan to build shelters.

But the survey showed that the opposition to housing the children is not as widespread as the anti-immigrant images that dominated the media in recent weeks may have suggested.

Asked if they supported allowing the unaccompanied minors to be temporarily relocated to their communities, 41 percent said they would support such a step, while 48 percent said they opposed it.

General ambivalence

“There are these really passionate, smaller pieces of the population that are really loud about it, but the broader public is much more ambivalent,” Ipsos pollster Chris Jackson said.

Also, while some people may in principle support the idea of housing children in their communities, the reality of shelters in their communities can change minds.

Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley initially criticized the Obama administration's plans to quickly deport the children, but he later pushed back against a proposal to shelter them at a facility in his state.

“A lot of Americans are compassionate, but they want other people to bear the burden of that compassion,” said John Pitney, a politics professor at Claremont McKenna College.

Last week, the U.S. government said it planned to soon close three interim shelters on military bases that have housed thousands of unaccompanied children, due in large part to decreasing numbers of minors making the trip.

The number of children crossing the border in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas was estimated to have slowed from more than 300 unaccompanied children per day in June to less than 150 in July, federal officials said.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll of late July to early August interviewed 1,566 Americans online. The precision of the Reuters/Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the survey had a credibility interval of plus or minus 2.8 percentage points.

You May Like

Turbulent Transition Imperils Tunisia’s Arab Spring Gains

Critics say new anti-terrorism laws worsen Tunisia's situation while others put faith in country’s vibrant civil organizations, women’s movement More

Burundi’s Political Crisis May Become Humanitarian One

United Nations aid agencies issue warning as deadly violence sends tens of thousands fleeing More

Yemenis Adjust to Life Under Houthi Rule

Locals want warring parties to strike deal to stop bloodletting before deciding how country is governed More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threati
X
Greg Flakus
May 29, 2015 11:24 PM
Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threat

Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video New York's One World Trade Center Observatory Opens to Public

From New Jersey to Long Island, from Northern suburbs to the Atlantic Ocean, with all of New York City in-between.  That view became available to the public Friday as the One World Trade Center Observatory opened in New York -- atop the replacement for the buildings destroyed in the September 11, 2001, attacks.  VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs