Hillary Clinton: The Deportrix in Chief

“We have to send a clear message. Just because your child gets across the border, that doesn’t mean the child gets to stay. So we don’t want to send a message that is contrary to our laws or will encourage more children to make that dangerous journey.”

Who said that on CNN on Tuesday? Anti-amnesty Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas? Quick-draw Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona? No. That was Hillary Clinton, who was flogging her new book, “Hard Choices,” during a town hall meeting moderated by Christiane Amanpour.

After an audience member lambasted President Barack Obama as the nation’s “deporter in chief,” Amanpour asked the former secretary of state what she would do about the thousands of children who have been crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally. Some 90,000 unaccompanied minors are expected to be apprehended this year.

“Should they be sent back?” Amanpour asked.

Before Clinton said flatly that “they should be sent back,” she talked up comprehensive immigration reform. Good Democrat. Also, she asserted that violence in Central America has driven desperate youths and mothers to cross the border seeking refuge.

In citing Central American chaos, Clinton essentially was rejecting conservatives’ contention that like a Pied Piper, Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — which freezes deportations for some immigrants who came to America illegally as children — has lured children from south of the border into the U.S.

Obama immigration critic Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies agrees that violence in Central America is a driver. But, he said, “if we enforce our laws, it has a deterrent effect. When you combine the disorder and poverty push factors in Central America and the fact that we’re giving them a pass, then you end up with this cascading crisis at the border.”

Don’t take Krikorian’s word for it. Read The New York Times. “With no immigration detention site equipped for women with children in the area — the closest one, in Pennsylvania, is overbooked — they are freed by the Border Patrol with a bus ticket to travel to where they have relatives in this country, and an order to appear in immigration court in 30 days,” Julia Preston reported.

A pregnant Guatemalan woman with a 4-year-old explained that she crossed the border after hearing that U.S. authorities issue permits that allow detained immigrants to stay in the country. The so-called permits actually are deportation hearing notifications — but lax federal enforcement has enabled human smugglers to portray them as green lights. Preston reported, “In a perplexing problem for the Border Patrol, many women and youths who cross the Rio Grande illegally now run toward agents rather than away from them, believing that being caught is the first step toward an entry permit.”

The White House is sending Vice President Joe Biden to Guatemala to discourage these border crossings. An anonymous aide told Politico that Biden will emphasize “that putting your child in the hands of a criminal smuggling organization is not safe.” Besides, new arrivals aren’t eligible for the deferred action program.

Thousands of teenagers are embarking on a perilous journey without their parents; mothers with children are risking their lives. People will die and families will suffer as impoverished people from other lands depend on Washington to not enforce federal law. Only Clinton, an ex-member of Team Obama, has uttered the words that can stop them: “They should be sent back.”

Email Debra J. Saunders at dsaunders@sfchronicle.com

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