BOSTON The surge of immigrant children from Central America could become a prickly issue for Democratic Congressman John Tierney as he fights for re-election, with challengers calling him out for not doing enough to stem the tide of refugees.
Republican Richard Tisei argues that Tierney has ignored the problem in Lynn, where officials have been overwhelmed by waves of unaccompanied minors, most of them from Guatemala, who cross the U.S.-Mexican border illegally before settling on the North Shore.
“Lynn taxpayers should not be expected to shoulder costs related to the influx of unaccompanied minors,” said Tisei, who is making his second run for the seat now held by Tierney, in a statement. “Our congressman should be fighting to bring financial relief to Lynn and to stop the flood of new arrivals at the border.”
More than 45,000 children traveling alone from Central America have been detained at the U.S. border with Mexico, according to the Customs and Border Protection agency, which predicts the number could swell to 90,000 by year’s end. Some are teenagers, though others are younger.
They are fleeing gangs and violence, according to federal authorities, but come seeking education and are drawn by rumors that once they arrive in the United States they will be allowed to stay.
Tisei called on Tierney to support legislation, filed by U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, a Republican, and Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Democrat, both from Texas, that would allow the U.S. Border Patrol to quickly turn back many kids at the border. Under current law, underage immigrants are allowed to stay in the country while awaiting a hearing in the backlogged immigration court system.
“Washington’s failed policies have created a humanitarian crisis that puts a tremendous strain on our communities,” Tisei said.
Tierney defends his record on immigration and said he is pushing for money and resources for Lynn and other communities that have been absorbing immigrant children. He accused his Republican challenger of “politicizing” a humanitarian crisis.