When protesters recently blocked buses full of undocumented children from reaching a border patrol processing facility in California, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Chanting unbelievably cruel and vicious slogans like “nobody wants you,” these anti-immigrant protesters were yelling at the most vulnerable among us — children fleeing regions where murder, rape and other violent crimes are creating havoc for innocents. Yes, we are a nation of laws, but we are also a nation that believes in welcoming the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning for freedom.
These aren’t kids looking to go to Disneyland, or trying to get a job; they are running from catastrophe to be with family members in the United States, or to find refuge here in order to stay alive. As we wrestle with policy and budgets, we must also wrestle with how we will be defined around the world — and how history will record it. We must respond without delay, but that response must show our balance between securing our borders and the humanity that cannot bear to see children caught in the middle of ugly politics.
In 2008, President George W. Bush signed the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, which gave expanded protections to children (not from Mexico or Canada) by prohibiting them from quickly being sent back to their country of origin. This was a historic step in the prevention of sex and human trafficking of children that was endorsed by a bipartisan coalition and signed by a Republican President. We didn’t see people yelling for Bush’s impeachment and we didn’t see the sort of political bickering that we are witnessing now.
Today, when President Obama wants to tackle the problem, he is getting pushback from every corner. Instead of working with him to establish a humane resolution to an urgent humanitarian crisis, politicians, pundits and those with their own agendas are using defenseless children as pawns in a dirty game of politics. I for one am disgusted.
Countries around the world have their own immigration laws and methods of dealing with a recurring theme: desperate people searching for peace from volatile parts of the world. And nations everywhere thrive and prosper from the contributions of immigrants and the children of immigrants — including right here in the U.S. We especially are a nation of immigrants; their influence was, and is, present throughout society. That is an undeniable fact. We are also a country that prides itself on certain morals and beliefs that include concern for children who have nowhere to go. How can we sleep at night if we send kids back to areas where they face the very real possibility of being killed, kidnapped or trafficked? Yes, securing the border is vital to our own security, but clearly, these migrant children weren’t running from border security; on the contrary, they are running towards it with the hope that they or someone can help.
Throughout my years championing for civil rights, analyzing politics and advocating on behalf of the voiceless, I am disturbed the most when harmless children suffer because of politics or detrimental policies. Gang activity that is occurring in areas to our south largely because of the U.S.-Mexican war on drugs is fueling much of the unrest and tragedy these young ones and their parents find themselves in.
Source: Huffington Post