ICIE founder Ralph Isenberg responds to border refugee crisis

The recent surge in refugee children from Central America to our southern border has strained government resources and left many asking how things got to this point. While some attempt to make broad generalizations and point fingers, the truth is far more complicated. ICIE founder Ralph Isenberg believes the problem not only has many causes, but several possible solutions.

Isenberg cites several factors in the surge of refugees, including the lack of action on immigration shortfalls by President Obama and Democrats and Republicans in Congress. He takes issue with much of the recent political grandstanding on both sides. “This is a knee jerk reaction to Congress’ failure, which was to make promises in terms of immigration reform and then not deliver on them,” Isenberg said. “You had a 'Gang of Eight' senators saying ‘We’re going to do this,’ and they don’t so that. It just falls by the wayside.”

Isenberg also takes issue with how President Obama handled the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program, and how the announcement was perceived south of the border. “You have youth numbering tens of thousands that were deported to Mexico, Central America, and even South America. The phenomena was many of these children had received education here or completed high school, but they were late on the (DACA) deadline and they ended up being deported. What they did was come back to the United States and apply for relief. Literally hundreds of kids, that were basically the same as DACA kids, were granted permission into the United States to go into immigration court proceedings at a later date. And, based on their time here, they would qualify.

“Now imagine a rumor like that, where you have essentially a large number of misinformed youth who think that all of the sudden the border is open to the United States, because they’re hearing about these people going over there. Thus, they are coming over by the tens of thousands because they think our border is open. It is in some sense that simple.”

Isenberg believes the misguided attempt to secure the border meant a missed opportunity to help Central American countries solve the issue that drives so many north: poverty. “This just points out that the billions of dollars spent on the “grand wall” along the southern border has been a dismal failure. Those billions of dollars could have just as easily been spent on alternative programs to stem immigration from Mexico and Latin America. What I’m talking about is the building of better schools, the building of better hospitals, which is better than the wall on the border because it isn’t working.” Indeed, a 2013 report by Forbes pointed out that the cost of 700 miles of border fence in Texas would cost $49 billion. That fence, however, would only cover half of the Texas/Mexico border, which is about 1,250 miles long.

In regards to Texas having to deal with the refugee surge, Isenberg believes Gov. Rick Perry’s recent statement to add more resources to border security missed an important point, and an opportunity to partner with an organization equipped to handle a refugee problem. “When Gov. Perry, and any other politician in the United States, makes a comment about what is happening on the border, it is out of place for one reason: this is not an American problem. This is a problem of the Organization of American States, which we are a signatory to.” The Organization of American States is an affiliation of all the countries of North and South America, much like NATO, which organize efforts on problems affecting member states.

“Instead of the United States taking it upon itself to solve this problem, we should be seeking the help of the other signatory nations,” Isenberg said.

Isenberg also believes it is important not to demonize these child refugees. “We need to not think about these kids coming across the border as some sort of locust swarm. We need to start looking at them as misinformed refugees that need to be relocated to a safer environment. This is a refugee concern, not a national security concern.”


The Isenberg Center for Immigration Empowerment (ICIE) is "a resort of last hope” for foreign nationals. People come to ICIE because the system has failed, and as a result, someone is facing a wrongful deportation. Since their founding in 2011, ICIE has helped hundreds of deserving families, and provides all services pro-bono. The organization deals with the entire family unit, from teaching the basic fundamentals behind community service, to English education, to individualized counseling to build positive mental health.