Real crisis at border is one of American conscience

From Flickr/Public Domain
From Flickr/Public Domain

Angry White people screaming at busloads of minority children should frighten any American with a knowledge of our own recent history. Voices of fear and bigotry have risen like an oily mess on the tides that have brought waves of young immigrant children across our borders.

The boys and girls are buoyed ashore by a 2008, George W. Bush signed law – the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act – that is supposed to protect them from the rampant dangers of murder and sex trafficking in their home countries. You have likely heard, by now, that the GOP has wrongly hung this on Obama, citing his executive action that delayed deportation of minors that were brought here by their parents, as children, as the reason for the sudden influx. But the law and the president’s order are distinct issues.

That law says we cannot turn them directly around, without detention and a deportation hearing, unless they are citizens of Mexico or Canada. Salvadorans, Hondurans and Guatemalans (as well as the rest of the world) all have the opportunity for due process, allowing them to stay in this country until they have their day in court. In a small number of cases, the administration has said, they will be allowed to stay.

Republicans in Congress have fought against giving President Obama the nearly $4 billion he asked for to help expedite hearing the cases. Instead, they are looking at a much smaller bill, that includes rescinding the human rights exemption in the 2008 law for non-contiguous, near border states, so that the refugee children can be returned to their home countries as if they were refugees from Mexico (or Canada). The Senate bill, which was endorsed by the administration Monday, also cuts the amount of money by about a third, but does nothing to reverse the policy of treating the children like the asylum seekers they are.

Here’s the insidious part, though. The “humanitarian crisis” (perhaps an overly appropriated diagnosis of a plethora of refugee issues) the act was meant to address is now being framed by Republicans as the children risking their lives to cross our borders, and what to do with them once they get here.

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin), appearing on NBC’s Meet the Press, Sunday, insisted that the Bush law, which he voted for, must be amended. “Otherwise,” he said, “the humanitarian crisis will continue. Otherwise families far away, on the other side of Mexico, will be giving thousands of dollars to traffickers to take their children over the border.”

While it’s true the children’s journey is very dangerous and, too often, deadly, Congressional Republicans are purposefully taking the very real crisis of rape, torture, murder and slavery which the children are escaping in their own countries, and muddling it with a crisis manufactured by xenophobes and ignorant hayseeds who are easily ginned up by radio personalities pushing an anti-immigrant agenda. In other words, Republicans like Ryan are playing to their base.

House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi (D-California) says changing the law is something Democrats will not agree to do, and the Senate’s bill bears that out. The act, she said, Friday, “relates not just to Central America, it relates to the American position on refugees and asylum seekers from around the world. Do we want to check out of that and say to other countries, ‘You take them’?”

Amazingly, she is getting some support in this from conservative commentators. Columnist George Will, on Fox News Sunday, said he thinks allowing the children to stay is not only the right thing to do, it is a traditionally American thing to do. “We ought to say to these children, ‘Welcome to America, you’re going to go to school and get a job and become Americans,'” he told the show’s moderator, Chris Wallace. “We have 3,141 counties in this country. That would be 20 per county.”

When warned what he was saying could bring a negative response from Fox News’ regular viewers, Will didn’t flinch. “We can handle this problem, is what I’m saying,” he explained. “We’ve handled what Emma Lazarus famously called ‘the wretched refuse of your teeming shores’ a long time ago and a lot more people than this.”

Even the New York Daily News, which often criticizes Obama’s policies, published an op-ed, Monday, where they call those in Congress who want to change the law to make it easier to deport the children “cruelly wrong.”

Let your Senators and Congressional representative know that there is nothing un-American about creating new Americans. Nothing, in fact, could be more American. You can also let your governor know that you want them to welcome some of these children into your state and your community.

As a child of immigrants myself, who left Europe only a few years after boatloads of Jews fleeing Hitler were turned away by the United States, I believe we have no choice but to maintain the intent of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, and keep letting these children in. This is not only our problem, it is our reason for being, our mission, and one this country, as a nation of immigrants, is uniquely qualified to solve.


4 thoughts on “Real crisis at border is one of American conscience

  1. I disagree with your position PG (big surprise). Although many of us are grateful for our citizenship as descendants of immigrants, our country, our laws and government intrusion is different today then it was 50 or 60 years ago, not to mention 80 years ago. Today, a law is being misused and is causing many unintended consequences. Specifically, a law enacted to protect people from sex trafficking is being abused by illegal immigrants to enter our borders. A country with no borders is no country at all. Our laws determine who gets to legally enter the country. When a law is misused, it gets modified, look at the ACA as a current example. Many people around the world follow our laws to become American citizens. This legal immigration system should not be undermined. Having compassion for people in need from other countries is to be human. But just because one feels for others, does not mean that our government or laws have any place for charity. Tax money used to combat this influx of more illegal immigration is a disgrace. This money has better uses for our country and our citizens.


    1. The only way to be sure that these children are not being used as a tool to subvert the system is to make sure they have expedited hearings, and that costs money. By the way, Cubans have carte blanche on becoming citizens, without a deportation hearing, and have for 50 years. I don’t hear any Republicans complaining about changing that law.


      1. The only way to be sure that these children are not being used as a tool to subvert the system is to treat these children as all other people attempting to cross our borders illegally. If one is concerned for these kids, go to Mexico and feed and house these misguided children. Help them get back to their home countries. Maybe even try to change society in Nicaragua or Guatemala. Find the source of the problem and work to solve the problem. Maybe take on drug abuse in the US. After all, may of the realists in Central America frame the problem as a result of an unquenshed demand for drugs north of there borders. This is not an article about Cuba. The reasons why Cubans are treated differently has nothing to do with this law. Republicans are complaining that the existing laws are not being enforced at the border. Of all the laws to enforce on the border, why is this Trafficking Victims Protection Act so sacred? It is being used as a political fulcrum by Polosi and others to the detriment of our rule of law. We are a compassionate and charitable nation, but many worthy immigrants wait years and spend thousands of dollars to get into this nation. These children and adults on our borders today are lawbreakers and are breaking in line.


        1. The law allows them to stay, if they can get here and plead their case. In practice that means they are not entering illegaly. The similarity to the laws regarding Cubans is they don’t even have to plead their case – it is assumed they are human rights asylum cases merely because they come from a Communist country. They get in line in front of EVERYONE. If the Cubans are not considered illegals when they get here, neither can the Central American asylum seekers be illegal.


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