MEXICO CITY – With tension flaring on the U.S.-Mexico border over the illegal crossing of thousands of young immigrants from Central America, Gov. Jerry Brown said after a meeting with religious leaders here Tuesday that he would support additional shelters for the minors in California.
“Certainly I’d do everything I could to make sure California will do its part to shelter any young children that are in need of protection,” the Democratic governor told reporters after meeting with José Horacio Gómez, the Mexico-born archbishop of Los Angeles, and several other bishops. “There are already a number of young immigrants, or young refugees, in Ventura, and I certainly would support additional shelters to deal with the particular immediate challenge we have.”
The image of Brown, a former seminarian, conferring with clergy in Mexico’s capital city reflected the intensity of the border crisis here. The private meeting, lasting about 90 minutes at a business club in the city’s exclusive Polanco District, followed two days of increasingly pointed rhetoric from Brown about the border crisis.
In the space of two days, Brown criticized Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s ordering of 1,000 National Guard troops to the border, and he appealed to politicians to adopt the “call of all religions to welcome the stranger.”
Brown acknowledged Tuesday that a 2008 law giving protections to unaccompanied immigrant minors is “obviously attracting people, many young children,” but he said violence and poverty in Central America is also a pressure. Brown said claims minors make under the 2008 law “should be examined and looked at, looked into in a fair way.”
Brown said President Barack Obama “does have the obligation to enforce the laws of the United States, which also include laws regarding refugees, and it is an excruciatingly difficult set of choices that he faces, and I would recommend very careful steps, and to call upon the Congress, both parties, to work through some more decent, humanitarian solutions.”
But Brown still has not taken a position on a $3.7 billion proposal by the Obama administration to address the crisis, likely – and controversially for many Democrats – accelerating deportations of unaccompanied minors.
Brown said he is “not in a position to make congressional commentary on that bill.”
The border crisis has been a diversion for Brown, who said little about the situation ahead of his trip. He previously described the situation as primarily a federal issue and planned to focus talks in Mexico on trade and the environment. But days before leaving California, Brown hastily arranged his meeting with the religious figures, and he used public interest in the border crossings to tout the state’s “very sympathetic” treatment of immigrants from Mexico, overall.
Asked Tuesday if the government was doing enough to secure the border, Brown said the crisis is not a military issue and that money spent addressing problems in Central America could have a better impact on security.
“I’ve read that the United States government is spending 20 billion dollars on the border, and a fraction of that invested in other problems in Central America might create a lot more security,” he said. “I’m not prepared to say whether they have the right number of border guards or the right number of drone airplanes or whatever else they’re doing, or the amount of wall size or wall width – that I can’t say. But I don’t think this is a military problem because millions of people have been coming across that border for many years under Republican and Democratic presidents. So I think now we need to take stock of where we are, deal with each of the cases of the children that are here, and then work with Mexico and Central America to get something done.”
Call David Siders, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 321-1215. Follow him on Twitter @davidsiders.