July 11, 2014 at 1:00 am

U.S. immigration laws must have meaning

For those of us in Michigan, where our international boundary with Canada is secure and regulated, the spectacle unfolding at the U.S. southern border is like something out of a dystopian futurist freak show.

Tens of thousands of migrants, many of them unaccompanied children, from Mexico and Central America streaming into the country illegally, overwhelming U.S. border security and immigration authorities. Of those taken into custody, most are being shipped at taxpayer expense to relocation centers around the country or to be united with family members already here (legally or not).

This situation is mind-boggling and reprehensible. In regard to the estimated 90,000 children smuggled here this year — often by drug cartel couriers — it is simply sickening, and a humanitarian crisis of major proportion.

In my view, the root cause of this crisis can be traced to the misguided 2012 decision by the Obama administration to approve without congressional authority de facto amnesty for children brought to the U.S. illegally, and repeatedly signal an intention to seek legal status for the overwhelming majority of all undocumented immigrants. By word and deed, the administration has encouraged the notion that anyone who manages to get here will be able to stay.

That was a huge mistake.

But more important than why it is happening is what we can do about it.

I have offered specific suggestions to Congress and the president which would have the dual effect of allowing us to regain control of our southern border and reverse the incentive for the children of Central America to immigrate here illegally.

First, I called upon the president nearly a month ago to call up the national guard to assist our beleaguered border agents in dealing with the unprecedented onslaught of undocumented immigrant children. Using the national guard in this fashion would allow those agents to focus on their primary responsibility — enforcing border security. Since then, a number of my colleagues, including House Speaker John Boehner and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, have expressed support for this idea.

Secondly, it is time we got the attention of our neighbors (and supposed allies) to the south in addressing this crisis.

Over the past decade, U.S. taxpayers have doled out $5.8 billion in aid to Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras in an effort to help them achieve stability and develop the civic institutions necessary to provide opportunity and prosperity to their own citizens, and diminish incentives for illegal immigration across our border.

These initiatives have obviously failed.

The solution is not, as the administration has suggested, to send yet more money to regimes which are, in many ways, complicit in the exportation and exploitation of their own people.

Since years of financial assistance have not worked, it is time to try another way to get the attention of the leaders of these nations. We need to cut off aid until they demonstrate a willingness to assist us in stopping the flood of unaccompanied minors pouring across our border.

Similarly, it is time for the U.S. government to reconsider the free trade agreements we entered into in the past two decades which were designed to create greater hemispheric prosperity and stability, but in fact have often had the opposite effect.

I understand the desire of so many people to come to the United States, which remains a beacon of freedom and opportunity in a world with far too little of it.

But freedom and opportunity, even our standing as a sovereign nation, cannot survive if our laws on immigration and border enforcement have no meaning.

It is time to act decisively to address the unfolding human tragedy and chaos on our southern border.

Candice Miller, R-Harrison Township, represents Michigan’s 10th Congressional District.