The children at the border

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 9, 2014

U.S. authorities estimate that between 60,000 to 80,000 children without parents will cross the border this year in what the White House is calling an “immediate humanitarian crisis.” The president is asking Congress for $3.7 billion in emergency funds to better respond to the crisis.

Republicans say the president and his party’s policies have left America’s Mexican border unprotected and its immigration guidelines soft.

Some want the White House to deport the children to their homelands (Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, mostly) and send the message that immigrating illegally to the United States is a failed effort. Others say the Obama administration can’t inhumanely send these children back into situations where violence, gangs and abuse are rampant.

When we cross our arms and firmly say, “This land is our land,” we seem to forget that we are a nation of immigrants. With the exception of Native Americans, each of us has an ancestor somewhere who was willing to take a chance and come to America.

But one has to wonder how horrible a situation would have to be for a parent to pay someone to smuggle their child across the border, not knowing what might happen to the child along the way, nor what that child’s fate will be if he or she is one of the lucky ones who makes it to the United States alive and unharmed.

America didn’t invite these children to her borders. But because they are here, our laws require that they go through the U.S. legal system, including a deportation hearing. Until the thousands of children get through that process, we are morally obligated to care for them as best we can.

In other words, the solution is not just as simple as putting thousands of children on a southbound bus. For most of the children, the outcome will be a return home, but caring for them before their hearings and getting them home safely will be a costly undertaking.