As tens of thousands of migrant children continue to stream across the US-Mexican border into Texas, President Barack Obama said that welcoming new immigrants to the US is “central to our way of life.” Speaking at the White House at an Independence Day ceremony, honouring 25 servicemen and women who had achieved US citizenship after joining the country’s military, Mr Obama reiterated his calls for reform of US immigration policy, saying: “We have to fix our immigration system, which is broken.”
Some 240,000 illegal migrants from Central America, including more than 50,000 unaccompanied children, have crossed the Rio Grande Valley into Texas in recent months. Most are thought to be fleeing poverty and gang violence in their own countries, including Guatemala and Honduras. State and federal authorities have struggled to deal with the influx, and Republicans have accused the Obama administration of failing to properly address the problem. The President has said that most of the recent migrants will eventually be sent home.
With Texas’s own Border Patrol facilities overwhelmed, federal officials have begun transporting the migrants to facilities in other states for processing. But when three busloads of women and children arrived in Murrieta in Southern California earlier this week, they were turned away by protesters wielding American flags and yelling “go home” to the new arrivals. The buses drove on instead to San Diego to avoid further confrontation.
At a town hall meeting, Murrieta residents reportedly expressed fears that the migrants might bring diseases and crime to the community, and “overrun” local schools. According to the New York Times, the town’s Mayor Alan Long told the meeting, “We didn’t ask for this problem, it was just dumped at our doorstep”. Mr Long also said he intended to send a “fat bill” to Mr Obama.
The President has promised instead to enact some changes to immigration policy using his executive authority, after his efforts to introduce sweeping reform were thwarted. The Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner, last month informed Mr Obama that he and his GOP colleagues in Congress would refuse to hold a vote on the issue.
Mr Obama is expected to travel to Texas next week to help raise funds for Democrat’s running in the state’s congressional races this November. However White House spokesman Josh Earnest told Reuters the President would not visit the border during his trip.