Calm and camera ready, state senate leader Darrell Steinberg pulled up to Sacramento International Airport early Monday morning to greet reporters, but he knows the task ahead of him is a challenge.
The California state senator and five other state lawmakers are heading to El Salvador to discuss current reports that more than 57,000 unaccompanied children have crossed into the United States since October.
Steinberg calls it a humanitarian crisis.
“For me, what comes first are the kids themselves,” Steinberg said. “There are children risking their lives, some of them who have lost their lives trying to take a perilous journey to have a better life.”
Immigration advocates say many of those children are fleeing from the gang violence plaguing their neighborhoods, areas where children are recruited as young as 10.
Some are even threatened with losing their lives if they do not join the gangs.
“Let us remember the essence of this problem, that children and people would only make this perilous journey for one reason, they want a better life,” Steinberg said.
Steinberg says the U.S.immigration system needs a major overhaul.
He hopes California can do its part.
“We want to see what we can do to inform the debate and come back and make some recommendations to our state government and to our national government,” said Steinberg.
The delegation will also visit Panama to learn about the expansion of the Canal Zone.
Steinberg is expected to return on July 23.