According to The Providence (R.I.) Journal:
Nothing humanizes a polarizing political topic like the face of a child.
And 52,000 of them since October make it a humanitarian crisis.
Relatively suddenly, the nation became aware of the scale of the problem brewing on its southern borderland. Thousands of children, driven to desperation by violence that threatens them at home, have fled toward the safer haven of the United States.
Those who survived the perilous journey through the drug barons and pimps are likely to find themselves caught in a snare, detained by an overwhelmed detachment of border patrol agents.
As unexpected and unwelcome a twist on the immigration argument as this is, nothing alters the fact that these are vulnerable children, stranded between two worlds without their parents. And that should guide our response to the crisis.
It’s a problem that won’t be solved by dispatching National Guard soldiers to the border. Nor will it be solved by presidential jawboning, no matter how sincere.
The social workers on the front line must be allowed to do their work, providing these children food, medical attention and a safe space, in the same way that aid workers are doing in Jordan, Lebanon, Kenya, Uganda, Afghanistan and other sad places where the dispossessed gather. And then we must demand our elected leaders try to find pragmatic ways to deal with this human disaster.
It’s asking a lot from a president and Congress that have shown little inclination to accomplish anything that requires cooperation. But the voter-citizens should insist upon a little moral bravery from the people they send to Washington.
It won’t be easy. The elements that created these American refugee and deportation centers include a sometimes-nasty stew of poverty, drug policy, law enforcement, the social safety net and the legal path toward citizenship.
Obviously, America must be able to control its borders better, since it cannot remotely afford to take in all of the world’s poor children. It is obvious, too, that the nations generating this crisis are doing a miserable job of combating poverty and violence by nurturing capitalism and the rule of law. Turning that around will be tremendously difficult.
This simmering brew won’t be calmed by the simple prescriptions from the political edges. It’s not practical to wall off the border, or to drop the barriers that properly limit untaxed people from enjoying all the benefits of citizenship. The fair but difficult path lies somewhere in the middle.
And it is lined with the faces of children.