JUL 9, 2014, 6:00 AM
Protecting undocumented children is an American value
The need for comprehensive national immigration reform has become glaringly more evident with recent events. It’s also apparent that the pesky problem of xenophobia, which cannot be legislated away, is alive and well among many of us.
Recent protests in Murrieta, California which blocked buses carrying undocumented immigrants to a Border Patrol station typifies how our country is divide on this very American issue of the status of immigrants.
Tired memes were exclaimed by protestors as to why these women and children should be immediately sent back to Central America. We’ve all heard the arguments: Immigrants will spread infectious diseases, increase crime and the old standby, they will make communities unstable.
The irony of the complaints of these protestors and the remarks of some Republican Congressmen is that it was actually a late President George W. Bush-era policy, supported by some Evangelical groups, that helped open the doors for the excess of undocumented children at our southern border. It was the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 that gave substantial legal protections to children entering America alone, who are not from Canada or Mexico.
Aside from the young girls who escaped capture by sex traffickers, many of the undocumented teens who come across the border are fleeing areas of extreme poverty and gang violence, in which refusal of gang initiation equals death.
Similarly, there are mothers who have been forced by unbearable circumstances to leave all worldly possessions and family members out of fear of their lives — not to leech off of tax-paying Americans, as many have falsely framed the situation. These are people who came here out of extenuating circumstances, not to break the law. Many Americans, who have won the geographic lottery by being born here would do the same if roles were reversed.
For centuries, America has absorbed women and children seeking asylum from dangerous areas. They’ve been accommodated and eventually contributed to the social fabric and economy of our society. Labeling these undocumented immigrants as criminals and blaming President Barack Obama for the influx of children seeking the shade of America are easy scapegoats, but in reality this cuts against the values America stands for. Perhaps it’s a mixture of where these immigrants are from, given the steady browning of America, and a black president who gets blamed for this Bush-era policy that compounds the xenophobia.
I wish that those who are keen on deporting at-risk children back into danger zones were as concerned for them as they are about the lives of the unborn in not being aborted. Unfortunately, that seems not to be the case.
In the meantime, those of us who care about the moral integrity of America have to continue to push back against this recent xenophobia that has been parlayed into more political ammunition against President Obama. This issue should not be about Democratic or Republican, or people of color or white folks, but about getting the proper aid and protection to these children in the short term and fixing our broken immigration system in the long term, outside of mass deportation.