Washington, DC – The fast-developing story regarding Central American unaccompanied children arriving at our border is bringing out the best – and the worst – in America.
While an increasing number of elected officials and commentators are determined to keep the focus on the well-being of children fleeing violence, others are intent to use the crisis to demonize kids and distort the immigration debate. It is said that every controversy revolves around the essential question, “what type of country are we?” If so, we have two very different visions on display.
Leading editorial voices from top Spanish language and English language outlets remind us that how we respond to children in need is a basic test of our national character. An editorial from the leading Spanish language newspaper La Opinión notes:
“The United States is a nation of laws. There must also be a fair legal system to enforce these laws. In other words, don’t put a 10-year-old, who doesn’t even speak the language, alone in a courtroom to face the legal arguments of the adults who want to deport him or her. To do so is an embarrassment.”
New York Times editorial writer Lawrence Downes writes:
“The border crisis is bringing out the worst in the immigration debate. Right-wingers are lying about migrant children carrying deadly diseases. And Republicans like Mr. Cornyn – who for nearly a decade has been one of the worst saboteurs of immigration reform in Congress – are forgetting themselves. In their eagerness to attack President Obama and score points from a humanitarian emergency, they are ignoring what even Glenn Beck understands: These are innocent children.”
And Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart added his own irreverent take on the situation, noting:
“I was always taught by my parents to follow the ‘Golden Rule.’ Whenever you see a kid in trouble…yell at them in a language they don’t understand” (Stewart’s segment is must-see TV).
Meanwhile, Senate Democrats are drawing a line in the sand about their opposition to legislation like the so-called HUMANE Act introduced by Senate Republican John Cornyn (R-TX) and House Democrat Henry Cuellar (D-TX). Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) made clear his opposition. And Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) said:
“If the House tries to change that law [a 2008 anti-trafficking law] , it’ll never pass over here. I won’t let it pass.”
On the other side of the aisle, anti-immigrant Republicans are busy trying to peddle ugly stereotypes about the unaccompanied minors while attempting to use the crisis to advance anti-immigrant goals. For example, Rep. Michele Bachman referred to the minors as “invaders,”while Rep. Rich Nugent (R-FL) said on a radio talk show:
“A lot of these children…quote-unquote…ya know, the first caller mentioned it, ya know, they’re gang members. They’re gang affiliated.”
Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), who remains fixated on trying to blame the crisis of child migrants fleeing Central America on the DACA program for DREAMers, yesterday circulated a Dear Colleague letter that stated, “I write to inform you of a development that threatens the foundation of our constitutional Republic,” before attempting to link any funding to address the crisis to rescinding DACA and potential executive action building on that program.
Stirred by anti-immigrant Sheriff Paul Babeu, Arizona Republican congressional candidate Adam Kwasman protested a bus of local children traveling to the YMCA in the mistaken belief they were child migrants from Central America heading to a shelter. Kwasman even trumpeted that he saw “the fear on their faces.”
Perhaps Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo captured it best, when he writes:
“I think we’ve uncovered the true border crisis. Innocent kids happily sitting on their YMCA buses heading out to camp for the standard day of monkey bars and bow-and-arrows and swimming, suddenly surrounded by crowds of anti-immigrant freak shows, mistaken them for migrant children heading to some detention center and threatening to pick up their buses and carry them back over the border back into Mexico.”
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