Leaders Don’t Play Soldier

July 14, 2014

As unaccompanied children continue to surge over the border from Central America, Republicans are obstructing solutions and playing politics. They are criticizing the President on one hand for being too welcoming to DREAMers, and on the other for failing to take a photo-op with the kids at the border. Here’s how to hold Republicans accountable.


  • Recognize the difficulty of the situation, but stand strong for treating children well. This is a moral issue. Do not call these children immigrants or even refugees. Call them children or kids.
  • This humanitarian crisis is separate from our pre-existing, ongoing immigration crisis. To keep the distinction clear, do not call this an immigration crisis, call it a humanitarian crisis. Then hammer home that Republicans are actively preventing us from fixing either issue.


Americans want leaders who care more about doing the right thing than dressing up and playing soldier for the cameras.
Republican Governor Rick Perry and conservative pundit Sean Hannity staged a photo-op at the Rio Grande by posing with a belt-fed fully-automatic machine gun. That’s how they respond to children in distress.
Dressing up like a soldier at the border or landing on an aircraft carrier to declare mission accomplished may look tough for the cameras—but it makes us weaker, not stronger.
Are we so blinded by politics that we can’t recognize a genuine humanitarian crisis on our own doorstep?
These kids are not migrant workers. They are children, fleeing violence, thousands of miles from home without their families because of factors beyond their control:
  • Extreme violence in Central America;
  • Republicans’ chronic under-funding of our immigration courts; and
  • A bill George W. Bush signed into law to prevent human trafficking.
President Obama has asked Congress for resources to handle this emergency. The longer we wait, the worse the problem will get.
Real leaders don’t play soldier. They propose solutions and get to work.

KEY:  Connect with your audience |  Make your case |  Show how your opponents differ


ATTACK: “These kids are coming to the U.S. because Obama’s immigration policy for DREAMers is too welcoming to them.”


  • Republicans can’t make up their minds: on the one hand they want him to pose for a photo-op with these kids, on the other, he’s too welcoming. They don’t care if they make sense, they just want to attack the president.
  • This is a widespread problem that needs real solutions: Since 2009, other Central American countries (Mexico, Panama, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Belize) have seen over a 700% increase in the number of asylum applications from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala.
  • We need sound policy, not sound bites and photo ops that only make things worse.


  • Between 2009 and 2012 a civilian in Guatemala, Honduras or El Salvador was more likely to be killed by violence than civilians in Iraq at the height of the insurgency. Data analyses have shown that as the homicide rates go up, so do the number of unaccompanied kids migrating.
  • The President has asked Congress to pass a $3.7 billion supplemental bill that would increase capacity to process and temporarily house children at the border, increase immigration court capacity to speed up cases, and expand law enforcement efforts at the border. It’s been nearly a week since Obama made the request and Republicans still appear to be standing in the way of solutions.
  • Mexico, Panama, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Belize have seen over an increase of over 700% in the number of asylum applications from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala in recent years.
  • At the same time, the number of Mexican children trying to cross the border into the United States has decreased.
  • Meanwhile, Republicans helped to precipitate this crisis by blocking efforts to fully fund and staff immigration courts.
  • By turning the millions of immigrants currently living in the shadows into legal taxpayers, immigration reform would add billions to our economy. Experts estimate that not passing it has already cost us $900 billion. And it would probably be the law already except that John Boehner is blocking it.
  • The Pope has made some statements in the last year that suggests Republicans should take a different tack when it comes to immigration policy.
    • “Migrants and refugees are not pawns on the chessboard of humanity. They are children, women and men who leave or who are forced to leave their homes for various reasons, who share a legitimate desire for knowing and having, but above all for being more.” [9/2013]
    • “We ourselves need to see, and then to enable others to see, that migrants and refugees do not only represent a problem to be solved, but are brothers and sisters to be welcomed, respected and loved.” [9/2013]