Beto O'Rourke says migrant families "pose no threat or danger" to the U.S.

O'Rourke: Migrant families "pose no threat or danger"

Former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke, one of the two dozen Democrats running for president, said detained migrant families who are not threats to the U.S. should be released and connected to an immigration case manager, stressing that the "majority" of those crossing the southwestern border are desperate and do not pose a danger to the country. 

"We know from past history that when we connect them with case managers in a community, they have a 99% chance of meeting their court dates and their appointments with ICE," he said on "Face the Nation" Sunday. "In other words, we do a better job of helping them to follow our laws when they have case managers in the community. And it costs us a tenth of what we pay to keep them in detention and in custody."

Since the summer of 2018, the Trump administration has been dealing with an unprecedented flow of migrant families from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador — collectively known as Central America's "Northern Triangle" — heading to the U.S.-Mexico border to seek asylum at ports of entry or cross illegally into the U.S. 

For a third consecutive month, the number of migrant families apprehended by U.S. authorities at the border in April reached a record high for the administration, which has repeatedly urged Congress to increase funding for border enforcement and to allow the government to detain migrant families for longer than 20 days  — a standard set by the "Flores" court settlement. Department of Homeland Security officials have pointed to the large-scale migration and their strained resources when pressed by lawmakers on the deaths of six migrant children in U.S. custody, or soon after being released, in the past eight months.

O'Rourke, a former El Paso congressman who gained national attention after a strong Senate campaign in deep-red Texas last year, said migrant families and children fleeing the "deadliest countries on the face of the planet" typically do not evade authorities. "Those families pose no threats or risk to this country," he told "Face the Nation."

The Texas Democrat said he supports an enforcement system at the border which reflects the "values" of the U.S.

"I think we've got to ask ourselves — during an administration that has caged children, that has deported their moms back to the very countries from which they've fled, that have continued this separation that is visiting a cruelty and a torture on these families, that has lost the lives of six children within our custody — whether or not we can do better and live our values, and whether or not there will be a reckoning and accountability for this," he added. 

O'Rourke said the most effective avenue to address the unprecedented flow of migrants from Central America is to continue and increase U.S. foreign aid to region, which President Trump has called ineffective and vowed to end. Aid workers leading efforts to curb the region's rampant poverty and violence have said such a move will backfire and fuel more migration from the region.     

"Walls aren't going to do it. Caging kids, separating those families — that's not the answer," O'Rourke said.