Democratic Rep. Beto O'Rourke, who has blasted President Donald Trump's "draconian" immigration policies during his 2018 campaign to unseat fellow Texas lawmaker Sen. Ted Cruz (R.), said in 2014 that then-President Barack Obama's approach to young illegal immigrants contributed to a surge of illegal border crossings at the time.
In 2014, the U.S. experienced a surge of tens of thousands of Central American children crossing the southern border with Mexico into Texas, in part due to Obama's liberal immigration policies, the Washington Post reported. The number of minors from Central America apprehended at the border was three and a half times higher than it was in 2012, when Obama created through executive order the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), which provides legal protections to immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children, or so-called Dreamers.
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The Obama administration initially dismissed that the president's policies encouraged border crossings, before warning parents not to have children cross the U.S.-Mexico border.
In response to the situation at the border, the House Homeland Security Committee held a hearing and had then-Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson testify.
O'Rourke, a vocal supporter of DACA, said at the hearing that Obama's immigration policies were partly responsible for the environment that created the border crisis.
"I'd like to address the larger context of this issue … about what has created the conditions for this crisis that we have right now," O'Rourke said.
"I will acknowledge—I do think that the president's piecemeal administrative approach to this when it comes to the Dreamers or through DACA might contribute to a perception that there are these permisos that are available in the United States," he continued.
The congressman also said that the way unaccompanied children are processed and placed with families in the United States contributes to that perception.
O'Rourke then claimed that the lack of comprehensive immigration reform also contributes to the issue.
On his Senate campaign website, O'Rourke calls to end "the militarization of our immigration enforcement system" and to close private immigration prisons and detention centers.