Immigration Debate Prolongs The Suffering of Migrant Children

IMG_CBP_child_border crisis 2014When it comes to handling thousands of kids from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, Washington’s problem is really divided into smaller ones: how do we send them home, how do we stop them from returning, and who’s gonna pay for this?

The border crisis has exhausted U.S. immigration courts and border agents. Both need an influx of staff and cash to sandbag the flood of migrant children on our southwest border. To turn this headache into a migraine, the wall that separates our nation from Mexico and the legal framework that renders justice to migrants also have plenty of gaps.

Congress will vote on emergency funding that could be less than President Obama’s $3.7 billion request to augment border and immigration procedures. Getting there isn’t easy, considering what Democrats and Republicans really want out of this. Some want troops at the border. Some want to expedite deportations. Some want changes in earlier regulations. Some want total reform. But things haven’t gone according to plan for proponents and border bill initiatives have collapsed at the last minute.

Whatever funding shows up would be distributed to various government entities whose hands are now firmly caught in the immigration machine. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services—likely to get the lion’s share of emergency funding— has been sending migrant children to shelters around the country. In July, HHS asked state governments about the availability of facilities to accommodate migrants for several months.

There is always a wellspring of charitable Americans willing to help those in need. On the other end of the spectrum is a confused and angry group of citizens. Unfortunately, congressional leadership harbors some of the latter. An irritated Rep. Steve King of Iowa had a delightful exchange with DACA immigrants whose refreshing sense of patriotism was dampened by his criminal suspicions. Representatives Rokita and Gingrey are convinced that migrants are infected with every possible disease in the book.

A frustrating din makes it hard for Americans to focus on the horrid state of affairs in migrants’ homes that spurred their escape to our border. Mobs, drugs, violence, and poverty exist there at unimaginable levels that we cannot understand. It is the hope to protect one’s family, to sustain them, or to seek freedom, that compels someone to reach our country. Whether they were misinformed or not of American immigration regulations, they had to try. In this case, it was worth the risk for a child to flee their home and travel in ungodly conditions. . . even to face expulsion for their efforts.

Were I to speak with a congressional delegate, I would not raise the subject of a child’s plight. Surely I would be met with a dry, “It’s complicated.” But perhaps there’s another way to work the issue. I could speak to the delegate of opportunity. Americans are always looking to seize a moment of fortune. In Washington, leaders use this crisis as a baseboard for political operations, but their lack of respect for these children has ruined every opportunity for their safe conduct. If we view the immigration crisis as a humanitarian response, then we also have the opportunity to demonstrate our mercy and charity. Yes, this would require a shift in immigration law, but any political message would be enhanced by national pride and image. Political parties thirsting for the largest minority population in the United States now have a major opportunity to present themselves as their righteous representatives.

The tricky thing to ensure their political survival is to put aside partisan agendas and move into proper statecraft. . . ending the suffering of thousands before our national reputation is marred forever.

Photo: U.S. Customs and Border Protection (cbp.gov)

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One Comment Add yours

  1. Things have quieted down since you wrote this. The issue truly is a very complicated one. There are many interested parties that all have different reasons for their usually narrow band of support. My issue with immigration is the issue of H1-b and L1 visas. The topic is being buried under the “Mexican” immigration. Supported by both political parties, but publically distasteful. Passage as silicon valley wants it will require a must-pass “for the kids” bill that it can be buried in. They are also trying to add it to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal as a backup.

    Regarding the central Americans, is it really immigration or are they really looking for refuge status? Should we be handling it as such anyway?

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