Wednesday, July 30, 2014

"Suffer The Little Children"

In any discussion or debate over the  complex issues of illegal immigration there is little talk about one segment of victims that may well be hardest hit by its consequences: children. While it is obvious that adults suffer the perils of treacherous geography, criminal assaults, unscrupulous Coyotes, and even death, there is a surge in unaccompanied children from Mexico and Central and South America who have been apprehended at the border for attempting to cross illegally in the US.

It is easy for Americans to picture our children playing safely in the streets, throwing water balloons at one another, riding bikes, or in their warm, air-conditioned homes watching TV entranced by their cell phones and electronic games. But few of us can imagine them taking their few possessions, stuffing them in a knapsack, and heading out on a treacherous thousand mile trek across deserts and mountains, to another country with only a couple of sandwiches and a bottle of water in hand, can we?

Yet according to figures, from 2008-2011 and average of 6-7500 children were apprehended attempting to cross the Mexico-US borders by the INS. In 2012, over 13,000 - in 2013 over 24,000 - and estimates are that over 90,000 unattended children will be detained in 2014!  Thus, it is welcome news that the Senate has just awarded the Obama administration $2B to help address the issue. But how far this money will go and exactly how it will be spent remains to be seen. This, issue while serious in its own right, does not address the untold trauma caused by children in the US, whose parents have been deported, and are left to the mercy of family and friends to care for them.

Recently, because detention centers at the border are already overflowing with illegal immigrants, excess detainees, many of them children, are being bussed to Texas and California only to meet angry mobs of Americans denying them entrance into their states or cities. It appears that the vast majority of these kids hail from Central and South America who are fleeing to the US due to poverty and to avoid the lure and violence of gangs in their countries. Many have relatives in the US and some of these may be fortunate enough to be reunited with them. Obama has called it a "humanitarian crisis."

But many Americans just don't want to hear the reasons why immigrants from the South are clamoring to enter the US. For them, the easy solution is "round em' up and ship em' back", a primitive method dating to the beginnings of the 20th century, one which has obviously not worked. "Illegals" have been rounded up, bussed, flown and herded into box cars in mass deportations. A large majority of these just turned around, and re-entered the US.

These Americans fear for themselves: "They bring crime." "They bring disease." "I got mine, by God. That's all that counts." But how can we comfortably eat from our full plate with so many hungry eyes watching us? Even the eyes of our own poor and homeless haunt us. If it weren't for the red stoplights that force us to make eye-to-eye contact with the derelict at the corner asking for money, we would never even acknowledge they exist.

To help get a perspective on this issue, let me take the liberty of recommending a few must-see films: "Sin Nombre" (Without Name), the powerful HBO documentary "Which Way Home?", and the documentary "Dying to Get in", for starters.

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