Desperate Kids Should Not Be A Means To An End

“It’s not just about having a heart. It’s about having a soul. And the soul of our country is about respecting the dignity and worth of every person. The soul of our country is about giving every person access to rights who is in our country.”

Nancy Pelosi, discussing a House Republican bill to address the humanitarian crisis at the border

“We ought to say to these children, ‘Welcome to America. You’re going to go to school, get a job, and become Americans.'”

George Will, stumbling uncontrollably over a rock of compassion

wwhen I was attending church, many moons ago, a popular saying among the congregants, one designed to initiate spiritual self-examination, went something like this:

If Christianity were a crime, would there be enough evidence to convict you?

If we ask the same thing of Americans as a people (roughly 80% of whom identify themselves as Christians of one variety or another), here is some evidence we might want to consider:

america not a christian nation

I think most of us would say that if Jesus were asked those questions, he would side with the kids. At least the Jesus I was first introduced to in Sunday School. But either Jesus has changed a lot since then, or the people who tote Bibles and quote scripture and demand cultural fealty to their version of the Word of God don’t much care what side Jesus would be on, when it comes to desperate children from Central America.

And the people most likely to tote Bibles and quote verses and fashion public policy based on Iron Age ignorance—that is, Republicans—are also the ones most likely to turn against Jesus and the kids:

The responses expose a partisan rift, with 70 percent of Republicans saying Central American children should not be treated as refugees compared with 62 percent of Democrats who believe they should. On whether the United States has an obligation to accept people fleeing violence or political persecution, 66 percent of Republicans say it does not and 57 percent of Democrats say it does.

For a party that wears its Christianity on its sleeve, if not in its heart, that’s a pretty damning indictment. I guess the migrant children should thank God, first for that majority of Democrats, and then for that 30% or so of Republicans who take their Christianity, not to mention their American values, seriously. But maybe I’m being too hard on the folks in that particular poll. Perhaps average people, even average Republicans, shouldn’t be expected to think through these kinds of issues with Jesuitical precision.

But Paul Ryan, who is not an average person, should.

Ryan, who is a Roman Catholic with a reputation for Big Ideas, appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press this past weekend and he was asked the following question about the kids who have come here from Central America:

DAVID GREGORY: Do you think these children and others, tens of thousands of them, should be sent back home?

REP. PAUL RYAN: Yes, I do. Otherwise the humanitarian crisis will continue. Otherwise families in countries far away, on the other side of Mexico, will be giving thousands of dollars to traffickers to take their children over the border and the humanitarian crisis will get worse…

That kind of thinking is fairly prevalent on the right (some Democrats, at one time including President Obama, have expressed a similar idea, too, but few do so today, and Obama is tinkering with a much better idea). Just this morning I matt salmon on msnbcheard another tightfisted Tea Party congressman, Matt Salmon of Arizona (who seriously argued in 1999 that Ronald Reagan’s mug should be carved into Mount Rushmore!), say that he believes,

…the most effective deterrent would be to immediately repatriate those children back to their homes and reunite them in their countries with their families, and that’s what we’re planning to do…and it costs less money to actually move the children back home and bolster the border than it does to indefinitely put them up in the United States while they wait for a trial three to five years from now.

You can see how the concern is not immediately with the children who are here, but with sending a message to people who may come here sometime in the future. And while we all ought to be concerned about the dangerous conditions under which these folks travel to America, and while we all ought to be concerned about the deplorable conditions that exist in their home countries, conditions that drive them to seek refuge in the United States, we cannot ignore the duty we have toward the kids who are here, the duty we have to honor our own laws and the values behind them, and the duty we have to justice itself.

Those who are seeking to send the children back as soon as possible are really, quite cynically and deplorably in my view, using the kids as messengers to send a very stern and un-American message to other desperate people: you are not welcome here. They are using weary and frightened kids as a means to an end. And even if the end was somehow justified, even if the message was less harsh, even if the message was “don’t make the journey because it is dangerous and ultimately pointless,” using the children who are already here to send that message would be immoral and un-American, not to say ungodly.

 

17 Comments

  1. King Beauregard

     /  July 30, 2014

    If you are a Christian, there can be no greater heresy than demonstrating a shortage of love. I figure there are an awful lot of hellbound Christians out there.

    Cue Anson posting a wall of text in which he will spin up as down, left as right, and brutal hard-heartedness as basic human decency.

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    • Ben Field

       /  July 30, 2014

      Fear is what drives their position. Fear of a person they cannot converse with, fear of a child that trekked across countries to reach the land where humanity is preached. Fear that the children might increase the 47% on assistance, not considering they might contribute to the economy. Fear that they might take their jobs, not realizing there are jobs no American will do. Cowards that cannot call themselves true Christians, Jews, or Muslims as all accept the Ten Commandments as the word of God. Afraid to look into the eyes of these children to send them away but instead ask the government to do the dirty work. I agree with you 100%, well stated Duane!

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  2. The 70% of Republicans who reject refugee status have some foundation for their fears. There is evidence that, if they stay, not all of them will grow up to take menial jobs plucking chickens and laying bricks. Some of them might take American jobs and become Pulitzer prize-winning writers. That Jose Vargas guy did. 😦

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  3. ansonburlingame

     /  July 31, 2014

    Responding to the “cue”, here is my “hard-hearted” line of thinking on the situation on our souther border. Move that situation east about 2000 miles and consider this approach.

    A family arrives at JFK from “anywhere”. They have no visa, not even a passport, are in ragged clothing, poor as can be, etc. and plead with the customs officials at JFK to be allowed to remain in America. How do and should we handle that situation? According to law is my guess and I have no idea how such an individual case would ultimately be resolved.

    One of course would first wonder how such a family with no documentation for international travel got on the plane in the first case. According to law they should not have been on the plane, period and their situation should have been handled at the point of origin.

    Now mulitply that one family by 100,000 families in foreign lands, all totally distitute and crying in great need. Some countries just load up a bunch of planes and fly those families all to JFK. What next, America? Is not following the law the proscribed method of dealing with asylum, at JFK, our southern border, our Canadian border, etc.?

    I submit back to Nancy Pelosi that crossing our borders illegally does not give such illegal immigrants any America hard earned “rights”. Those “rights” are for American citizens and those we allow into our country, legally.

    I certainly have no objection to asylum for people crying for American largesse and comfort in America. But that process must proceed in accordance with laws that control exactly who is provided asylum.

    The simple and totally illegal act of anyone crawling across our border receiving the full benefit and protection of American citizens (and legal immigrants) is an unworkable situation in my view.

    Governments, any government, must establish laws that work and can be enforced, humanely. Our current southern border mess is created by illegal activity and it seems lame attempts to accomodate “refugees” is bordering on illegality as well. The way to prevent illegal activity is to enforce the law or change the law to permit a much wider scope for granting asylum. Violating exisiting laws just compounds the situation of illegal activity by all concerned, hard-hearted as that may sound.

    Now, would you liberals agree to open up all of our borders, JFK, the southern one, etc. to allow every hungry kid anywhere in the world to get on a plane, come to America and be treated as an American citizen as soon as he steps off the plane (but before going through immigration officials). I am thinking of the destitute in Somalia, for example, every hungry kid in Somalia that wants to come to America for whatever reason?

    Anson

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    • King Beauregard

       /  July 31, 2014

      “Those “rights” are for American citizens”

      SOMEbody just failed Civics 101.

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    • Anson,

      Your last question ignores three things. First, it ignores the history of Central America and our role in partially shaping the present conditions (many articles are available online detailing this stuff, including here). For that, we have some culpability and responsibility. Second, there is a law on the books that differentiates, for humanitarian reasons, between contiguous and non-contiguous child immigrants who enter the country illegally (you know, the one your Republican friends in the House wanted Obama to ignore, while at the same time calling him “lawless”). Third, no one is saying that “every hungry kid anywhere in the world” is entitled to the rights and benefits of American citizenship via illegal immigration. That is a straw man. What we are talking about here are kids from nearby countries fleeing not just poverty, but violent social conditions, as well as an understandable attempt to reunite with parents and other relatives who have already made a life here. And I, for one, think we have the means, if not the will, to accommodate those who qualify for refugee status under a low-bar standard.

      Duane

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  4. As I see it, there is no humanitarian crisis here. The humanitarian crisis is in certain Central American countries. Our problem seems to be that we can’t tell an illegal immigrant from a refugee. And these kids, to me anyway, are refugees.

    If Lebanon can take in hundreds of thousands of refugees from Syria and Turkey can take in an equal number from Iraq, then surely we can take care of a few thousand refugee children from Central America.

    And don’t call me Shirley.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, well, as many sources have documented, there is a humanitarian crisis in some countries in Central America, partly due to past American policies in the region. But the reaction to the flight to safety by kids and others is what has made it both a logistical and political crisis in the U.S. Some Americans, many of them teapartiers, simply don’t want to take any responsibility for these people, many of them seeking relief from intolerable social conditions (like forced gang membership) or wanting to reunite with family members already here. That reaction, by the forces of reaction in our country, has made this situation much worse than it has to be. Witness what right-wingers recently engineered in the House of Representatives, a shameful and historically scandalous body if there ever was one.

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  5. ansonburlingame

     /  August 2, 2014

    You are correct Herb, the real crisis is south of our border, as I have mentioned several times herein. You say however that every “kid” is a refugee. OK, deal with them, legally as such which entails initial confinement, etc. and find a place for them in the course of doing business. But however you ultimately “find a place for them” it must be done both humanely and legally. I continue to suggest that full legal rights are only for people in America that are citizens or immigrate, travel to and from, or otherwise legally reside in America. How we deal with “illegals” is the whole political argument now.

    Well, how did we deal with immigrants at Ellis Island long ago. As I recall every one of them received a physical exam and many were returned to their countries of origin simply for having a “disease”. NO, I don’t call for returning sick kids back to ……, but I continue to submit that they must meet a legal criteria and that criteria be met in some form of “official” government review before they are “released” to do and live in America for as long as they like. And most important, except for the rare exception, every one of those postential immigrants from Europe long ago, lined up and waited their turn for administrative action to release them freely into America. Our problem today is many simply run across the border and don’t bother to “wait in line” for their situation to be resolved, administratively or ultimately legally.

    I don’t like the legislation just passed by the House. But I don’t like Obama’s “policies” either. Immigration advocates do not like our current laws. I see nothing wrong with them if they are enforced, but am willing to listen to changes as well. What I don’t like at all is the “flood” of humanity currently clamoring on our southern doorsteps as an immediate crisis and call for legal remedys as the solution. In the meantime, well enforce the law.

    As for 57.000 kids, in America, well sure we can care for them but in a confined environment, not let loose in America under no government control until the legal process works its way to conclusion, legally.

    Closing with a question. Say a 16 year old “kid” sneaks across and gets caught and thus is confined, legally and humanely, until his case comes to court or administrative review three years later. He is now 19 years old. Should he be treated as a “kid” or adult?

    Anson

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    • Ben Field

       /  August 2, 2014

      Anson,
      SCOTUS has ruled in the past and continues to state that any person in the US (legally or illegally) is entitled to the same rights as any American citizen other than voting or owning firearms. Look it up!!

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      • Ben Field

         /  August 2, 2014

        Refer to:
        Yick Wo v. Hopkins
        1886

        Liked by 1 person

        • Very good, Ben. This case reads like something Mark Twain might have written (or maybe Ambrose Bierce?), and despite its initial application to primarily cases of race, it clearly applies to citizenship as well, and the court emphasized that when it later said,

          “Distinctions between citizens solely based because of their ancestry are by their very nature odious to a free people whose institutions are founded upon the doctrine of equality. For that reason, legislative classification or discrimination based on race alone has often been held to be a denial of equal protection.”

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    • The answer to your question is that, if he can prove it (and, as I have stated elsewhere, the bar for such proof should be set very low), he should be treated as a refugee.

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  6. Ben Field

     /  August 2, 2014

    Plyler v. Doe 1983
    Or just google “do illegal immigrants have rights” and read usgovinfo.about.com and you will see the SCOTUS has already stated this repeatedly.

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