White House and Democratic governor clash over migrant children

Maryland’s Martin O’Malley criticises policy of repatriating children at border

Governor Martin O’Malley has clashed with the Obama administration after he said returning tens of thousands of unaccompanied Central American children  to their home countries would send them “back to certain death”.

Governor Martin O’Malley has clashed with the Obama administration after he said returning tens of thousands of unaccompanied Central American children to their home countries would send them “back to certain death”.

Fri, Jul 18, 2014, 01:00

The US immigration crisis has stirred political tensions even among erstwhile allies on the Democratic side as shown by a row between the White House and Maryland governor Martin O’Malley.

The Irish-American politician has clashed with the Obama administration after he suggested that returning tens of thousands of unaccompanied Central American children who have arrived at the country’s southern border with Mexico to their home countries would send them “back to certain death”.

Underlining his progressive credentials on the political left, Mr O’Malley spoke passionately in support of caring for more than 57,000 unaccompanied child migrants, mostly from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, who have arrived at the US border this year.

“We are not a country that should turn children away,” said Mr O’Malley, a potential runner for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, told a press conference at a Democratic Governors Association event in Nashville, Tennessee last Friday.

He said that his view-point was shaped by his ancestors, including his great-grandfather Martin O’Malley, who emigrated to the US from Ireland, and by the Catholic Church’s sense of social justice.

“I can only imagine, as a father of four, the heartbreak that those parents must have felt in sending their kids across the desert where they could be muled or trafficked or used or killed or tortured, but with the hope that they would reach the United States,” he said.

White House response

His comments drew an immediate response from the White House, which is being criticised by Democrats and Republicans alike over the handling of the border crisis.

Mr Obama’s domestic policy adviser Cecilia Munoz called Mr O’Malley and details of a request he made during that conversation not to house children at a centre in the conservative city of Westminster, northwest of Baltimore, was leaked to the media where it was portrayed as an example of the governor’s “hypocrisy”.

The Maryland governor later complained that his comments were misconstrued, saying that he was suggesting to the White House that Westminster – where anti-immigrant graffiti has recently appeared – “might not be the most inviting environment for the kids”.

Asked by news channel CNN if he felt he had been “thrown under the bus” by the White House, Mr O’Malley said: “I really don’t care. I am far more concerned about children being penned up and cooped up in conditions that look a lot more like kennels.”