Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

There's a time and place for photo ops, but border is neither

By Donna Brazile
July 11, 2014 -- Updated 1733 GMT (0133 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Donna Brazile says to solve this border crisis, Congress and the administration must work together
  • Thousands of children from Central America have flooded the U.S. border seeking refuge
  • Brazile: This is more about who we are as a nation -- a nation of immigrants
  • We are proud that we are a country that people run to, not from, she says

Editor's note: Donna Brazile, a CNN contributor and a Democratic strategist, is vice chairwoman for voter registration and participation at the Democratic National Committee. She is a nationally syndicated columnist, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and author of "Cooking With Grease: Stirring the Pots in America." She was manager for the Gore-Lieberman presidential campaign in 2000. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN) -- President Barack Obama is back in Washington after a three-day trip to Colorado and Texas that included fund-raising for his Democratic colleagues and meetings with governors and legislators and mayors and citizens.

When asked why he didn't visit the border, the President responded (and please, fellow commentators, let's get the quote and the context right): "...there's nothing that is taking place down there that I am not intimately aware of and briefed on. This isn't theater. This is a problem. I'm not interested in photo-ops; I'm interested in solving a problem. And ... the suggestions of those who work at the border, who visited the border, are incorporated in legislation [that I've already sent to Congress] that we're already prepared to sign the minute it hits my desk."

Context: There's a time and place for photo-ops, and a time and a place to get things done. Hello, Congress?

This current immigration crisis is less about who these child refugees from the drug wars are, and more about who we are as a nation -- a nation of immigrants.

Donna Brazile
Donna Brazile

As Americans, we are proud that we are a country that people run to, not from.

Our national symbol is not a Border Patrol guard with a gun. It's the Lady with the Lamp:

"Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me."

In 2008, just before leaving office, President George W. Bush signed a law that Congress passed almost unanimously, requiring unaccompanied border-crossing minors from countries other than Canada and Mexico to have a fair hearing before an immigration judge. The American Civil Liberties Union and immigrant rights groups have filed a class-action lawsuit, trying to force the government to supply legal counsel for undocumented minors facing deportation.

President Obama, rightly, is upholding the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act. His administration announced that it would prioritize the immigration cases of recent arrivals, particularly unaccompanied minors and families.

Migrant children on a dangerous journey
Boehner pins border crisis on Obama
Riding Mexico's train of death

The government will add and reassign immigration judges to focus on recently arrived children and families, whose cases would jump ahead of all the others in line.

In addition, in a balanced approach, President Obama has asked for $3.7 billion to deal with the immediate crisis. Half the money will go to proper facilities for child refugees and more immigration judges. The other half will go to increased border security.

Obama has a strong record on immigration enforcement, outdoing both Republican and Democratic predecessors. He has deported over 1 million immigrants, focusing on those with criminal records. As documented by many nonpartisan sources, by 2011 Obama had reduced illegal immigration crossings to net zero. He doubled the number of border guards from what they were in 2004.

Indeed, Obama's Justice Department has been so aggressive in deportations, the City of Los Angeles refused to hold detainees past their release dates, as requested, citing constitutional protections.

But Congress, rather than confront the immigration problem with a legislative solution or consider Obama's request for emergency funds, has jumped headfirst into the photo-op rabbit hole.

Sadly, unless Congress acts, we will likely send most of the children back -- back to the drug-fueled gang violence from which they fled.

In his request for emergency funds, Obama recognizes the dangerous, abusive conditions these children face in their Central American countries. He has designated some of the money to Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, where most of the children come from, to crack down on gang violence and support tougher penalties on smugglers. Money will also go to build better holding facilities for children.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post reports that human rights organizations filed a complaint for 100 refugee children, saying they were denied necessities, including diapers, were subjected to racial insults, and were confined in "squalid" US detention centers.

This "do-nothing" Congress needs to do something. These are children we're talking about.

Congressional opposition to immigration reform or emergency funds doesn't stem from any philosophical objections or differences of principle. It stems from a calculated, petty, selfish rejection of anything Obama proposes. Four years ago, the President remarked, "If I said the sky was blue, they'd say no. If I said fish live in the sea, they'd say no."

It's only gotten worse.

It's time Congress channel the spirits of the late Senate Republican Leader Howard Baker and the late President Lyndon B. Johnson, both of whom practiced the art of bipartisanship, and to recall the saying from Scripture, "Come let us reason together."

It's time Congress got spiritual, considering there's "near universal" religious support across our nation for Immigration Reform. Conservative Evangelicals, Protestant organizations across the spectrum, Catholics, and Jewish organizations have formed coalitions urging Congress to implement comprehensive Immigration Reform. They were shunned.

Elie Wiesel once wrote, "I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation."

Why is Congress silent?

Where, my fellow citizens, are our acts of goodness and kindness?

For God's sake, these are children we're talking about.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook.com/CNNOpinion.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
December 27, 2014 -- Updated 0127 GMT (0927 HKT)
The ability to manipulate media and technology has increasingly become a critical strategic resource, says Jeff Yang.
December 26, 2014 -- Updated 1617 GMT (0017 HKT)
Today's politicians should follow Ronald Reagan's advice and invest in science, research and development, Fareed Zakaria says.
December 26, 2014 -- Updated 1319 GMT (2119 HKT)
Artificial intelligence does not need to be malevolent to be catastrophically dangerous to humanity, writes Greg Scoblete.
December 26, 2014 -- Updated 1505 GMT (2305 HKT)
Historian Douglas Brinkley says a showing of Sony's film in Austin helped keep the city weird -- and spotlighted the heroes who stood up for free expression
December 26, 2014 -- Updated 1303 GMT (2103 HKT)
Tanya Odom that by calling only on women at his press conference, the President made clear why women and people of color should be more visible in boardrooms and conferences
December 26, 2014 -- Updated 1312 GMT (2112 HKT)
When oil spills happen, researchers are faced with the difficult choice of whether to use chemical dispersants, authors say
December 25, 2014 -- Updated 0633 GMT (1433 HKT)
Danny Cevallos says the legislature didn't have to get involved in regulating how people greet each other
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 2312 GMT (0712 HKT)
Marc Harrold suggests a way to move forward after the deaths of NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos.
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 1336 GMT (2136 HKT)
Simon Moya-Smith says Mah-hi-vist Goodblanket, who was killed by law enforcement officers, deserves justice.
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 1914 GMT (0314 HKT)
Val Lauder says that for 1,700 years, people have been debating when, and how, to celebrate Christmas
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 2027 GMT (0427 HKT)
Raphael Sperry says architects should change their ethics code to ban involvement in designing torture chambers
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 0335 GMT (1135 HKT)
Paul Callan says Sony is right to call for blocking the tweeting of private emails stolen by hackers
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 1257 GMT (2057 HKT)
As Christmas arrives, eyes turn naturally toward Bethlehem. But have we got our history of Christmas right? Jay Parini explores.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 0429 GMT (1229 HKT)
The late Joe Cocker somehow found himself among the rock 'n' roll aristocracy who showed up in Woodstock to help administer a collective blessing upon a generation.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 2115 GMT (0515 HKT)
History may not judge Obama kindly on Syria or even Iraq. But for a lame duck president, he seems to have quacking left to do, says Aaron Miller.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 1811 GMT (0211 HKT)
Terrorism and WMD -- it's easy to understand why these consistently make the headlines. But small arms can be devastating too, says Rachel Stohl.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 1808 GMT (0208 HKT)
Ever since "Bridge-gate" threatened to derail Chris Christie's chances for 2016, Jeb Bush has been hinting he might run. Julian Zelizer looks at why he could win.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 1853 GMT (0253 HKT)
New York's decision to ban hydraulic fracturing was more about politics than good environmental policy, argues Jeremy Carl.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 2019 GMT (0419 HKT)
On perhaps this year's most compelling drama, the credits have yet to roll. But we still need to learn some cyber lessons to protect America, suggest John McCain.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 2239 GMT (0639 HKT)
Conservatives know easing the trade embargo with Cuba is good for America. They should just admit it, says Fareed Zakaria.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 0112 GMT (0912 HKT)
We're a world away from Pakistan in geography, but not in sentiment, writes Donna Brazile.
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 1709 GMT (0109 HKT)
How about a world where we have murderers but no murders? The police still chase down criminals who commit murder, we have trials and justice is handed out...but no one dies.
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 2345 GMT (0745 HKT)
The U.S. must respond to North Korea's alleged hacking of Sony, says Christian Whiton. Failing to do so will only embolden it.
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 2134 GMT (0534 HKT)
President Obama has been flexing his executive muscles lately despite Democrat's losses, writes Gloria Borger
ADVERTISEMENT