Throughout the world today, millions of people are being displaced by war, drought, famine, and political upheaval. And while the conflicts in Syria and Iraq are drawing the most media coverage, the truth is America too is in the midst of its own refugee crisis.
Don’t be surprised. Odds are, you’ve been hearing about this crisis for weeks or months already without realizing it because certain quarters of our media and political class have been very deliberately misrepresenting it as an issue of illegal immigration, instead of a humanitarian crisis that would require a serious, companionate response.
So let me attempt to clear up the spin. This year alone, 70,000 children are expected to be swept up by the federal government after crossing our southern border with Mexico. However, the bulk of them are not Mexicans. Instead, the bulk of this surge in children, some as young as five years old, are coming from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala.
Those children coming from Mexico can, and usually are, deported back to their home country as quickly as the system can process them. However, due to a 2008 law, those unaccompanied minors from countries other than Mexico must be granted due process to a legal hearing to determine their status in front of a judge.
You see, there has been an enormous spike over the last couple of years in the number of children coming from these central American countries, closely mirroring a huge spike in crime, violence, and gang activity in the same timeframe.
These crime spikes, in turn, didn’t spring up from nowhere. Much of the increase in violence, murder, and kidnapping happening in Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala stem directly from shifting distribution networks of the Mexican drug cartels. After many years of coordination between the DEA, FBI, CIA, and the Columbian government, the old center of the drug trade is on the wane. Bogota and the rest of Columbia is slowly becoming a safer place to live and work once more. But the drug trade hasn’t let up, it has simply shifted further north, bringing the same blight of fear, exploitation, and violence that used to plague so much of South America with it.
And who is to blame for that? America has long been the world’s largest and most lucrative market for illegal drugs. Cocaine, heroine, meth, and pot flow North, while tens of billions of dollars in both currency and illegally purchased weapons flow south. A perfect symbiotic relationship of death and societal collapse.
The number of unaccompanied children coming from Honduras alone in the last two years has shot up almost six-hundred percent. Many of these children have traveled over a thousand miles, through multiple countries, risking beatings, rape, starvation, and death to get away from the ever-increasing horrors they face in their home countries.
America, through both our drug dependency and our utterly feckless policy of criminalization and imprisonment for drug offenses instead of treatment, decriminalization, and legalization in the case of softer drugs like weed, are partially, maybe even mostly responsible for the circumstances that have driven these children from their homes.
Which is where we run into the politicians and protestors at the border trying to muddy the waters by misrepresenting these refugees as illegal immigrants and filling the public discourse with fear of gangs, terrorists, and disease.
The trouble with that narrative is it’s basically all false. Until a child is afforded a trial, their status as either a refugee or illegal immigrant hasn’t been determined. That is the whole purpose of holding the hearing in the first place. Labeling all of them illegals before the trial is tantamount to assuming their guilt and asking them to prove their innocence.
But it gets worse. Stories of “Muslim prayer rugs” on the border have spread like wildfire through anti-immigration circles, stoking baseless fears about terrorist sleeper cells and linking them to these kids. Never mind the fact it turned out to be a soccer jersey, (which, frankly, I’m much more concerned about infiltrating the country than Muslims, but I digress).
As if the possibility of these children being adorable little ISIS or al Qaeda operatives wasn’t scary enough, opponents have also raised the threat of infectious disease as a reason to turn away these kids. You see, these little Typhoid Maria’s are just brimming with every terrible, horrendous disease you’ve ever heard of, including the Ebola virus, despite the fact it’s never been seen outside Africa.
While it’s heartwarming to see so many “conservatives” who continue to try and sabotage the implementation of the ACA suddenly take an interest in public health, this issue too is overblown. As far as communicable disease is concerned, you’re actually at a greater risk hanging around genuine American children because, and I swear I’m not making this up for effect, children in Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala actually have better rates of immunization than their U.S. counterparts, (although, to be fair, most of the fault for this falls to anti-vax parents, who are predominantly progressives).
All this disinformation campaign attempts to do is to dehumanize these kids and make it easier to ignore our responsibility as a nation and our compassion as human beings. But that’s not who we are, at least, it’s not who we have long aspired to be. The dedication plaque mounted to the Statue of Liberty reads thusly:
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
How do these children not qualify? How, indeed, does any person of good character not qualify? I have always thought that people born abroad, who risk all to reach our shores and throw their lot in with ours have a far superior understanding of the point and the promise of America than those born here who fight to keep them out.