A sovereign nation must be able to control its borders. The United States cannot simply throw open the gates and let anyone come in, even children. That said, there needs to be a humane approach to the nearly 60,000 often-unaccompanied alien children that have crossed our southern border. Deval Patrick seems heading in a rational and humane direction toward offering temporary secure shelter on military property in the Bay State.
One can’t help being moved by the haunting faces of the youngsters who have travelled hundreds of miles, fleeing gangs and drug violence in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Mexicans are sent back immediately. Central Americans are held pending assessment of their individual cases, based on a 2008 law passed with bipartisan support under President George Bush.
They’ll likely end up being deported, but, while their legal cases are processed, the federal government is asking other states to share with our border states the burden of housing the children in secure facilities. Reportedly, the Patrick administration is looking at Camp Edwards, part of the larger Cape Cod military reservation, which provided temporary housing for Hurricane Katrina victims. (An alternative is Westover Air Base in Chicopee.)He speaks of taking 400 kids for four months, though I’m not confident about the projections. The feds are supposed to foot the bill.
According to the Boston Globe, MA House minority leader Brad Jones would prefer using the space for the state’s homeless. Can you see rounding up the homeless on the streets of Boston or Lowell and putting them in barracks on Cape Cod? State policy now favors finding permanent housing for the chronically homeless, preferably in or close to their home communities. Camp Edwards is a short-term solution for an event-driven problem. Comparing the child evacuees to chronically homeless is not equivalent.
The Washington Post’s Joshua Partlow noted that, while these children may not be with a parent or legal guardian, they are not necessarily travelling alone. Some may be with other relatives, neighbors, smugglers or others (including sex traffickers). Thinking about the vulnerability of these youngsters, the horrors they’ve seen or experienced, I don’t find that distinction particularly reassuring. This is a perfect opportunity for church, temple or mosque groups to find temporary homes for some of these children.
While the headlines today have turned to Gaza and the Ukraine, we should still help take care of those children awaiting legal processing. Congress has to fund the process for adjudicating the cases expeditiously. Then voters have to push Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform. Sadly, immigration reform won’t be a panacea if the American and worldwide demand for drugs continues to fuel the narcotics-related violence that’s disrupting families and driving these children from their homelands. This is an unbelievable mess, and the failure of Washington leaders to take responsible action is shameful.
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