More than 50,000 unaccompanied minors – mostly from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras have crossed the southwestern border of the United States since October. At press time, the children were being held at four U.S. Military bases. Their entry into in our country has developed into a hotly contested political debate. Hopefully, we will be able to put politics aside and recognize that this is a humanitarian crisis of huge proportions.
President Obama has asked Congress for $3.7 billion to care for the children and to increase border security. So far the response has been mixed and nothing has happened. Gov. Rick Perry is placing 1,000 National Guard troops on the border, which may play well with some folks, but makes me wonder what he is thinking. Clearly our leaders in Washington, as well as those in the border states, have a humanitarian crisis on their hands. In times like this, the American people have always been extremely caring and compassionate. Hopefully, we will realize in this crisis that we are dealing with children. Based on what I am seeing daily on the nightly news, however, I really have to wonder where this crisis is headed.
Apparently, the fate of the children will be handled through the immigration process and determined by an immigration judge and asylum officials. As I understand it, if an immigration judge determines that a child faces a credible threat of death upon his or her return to their own country, that child could be granted humanitarian relief. I am also told that some immigrants from Mexico and Canada are not entitled to an automatic hearing. But apparently in this instance children coming from Central American countries do qualify.
The conditions in the Central American countries mentioned above are very bad. In fact, they are said to be horrendous. The immigration issue, which up to this point has dealt primarily with adults coming into the country, now involves children of all ages. Reportedly, the children were sent to America to escape high rates of murder and extreme gang violence in their countries, especially in El Salvador and Honduras. The conditions there have been described as “war-like.” I was shocked to see on the television news protestors who were actually trying to block buses carrying children to the processing centers. People of faith must get involved and let our political leaders know that these children can’t be used as political pawns. Hopefully those in authority will put politics aside and deal with a most serious humanitarian problem. Is that really asking too much?
The failure of Congress to deal with the immigration issue has been a most serious mistake. There are a number of industries – primarily agricultural and service-related – that have done very well financially hiring folks who have come into this country primarily from Mexico. Obviously, many of these workers are here illegally. If you doubt where they are “working” in our country do a little checking around to see first-hand if they really are. I believe you will find many hard-working Mexicans doing work in the fields, especially at harvest times, in hotels and restaurants, with landscaping companies and in construction jobs such as roofing.
There may be a silver lining in the present crisis even though it’s well hidden at this juncture. Perhaps we now have an opportunity to turn the crisis into something good. There is a definite need to pass meaningful immigration reform. Having to deal with the current crisis may force the White House and Congress to realize they need to work together, come up with a workable plan and then get it passed into law. But in any event, until that happens, and we face up to the immigration problems, we must take care of the children!
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