I have been asked multiple times for my thoughts on the unaccompanied children flooding into our country. So here goes. Here are my suggestions:
1. Stop making this a purely political issue: As long as those with the power and authority to deal successfully with the situation are looking at it through the political lens, nothing satisfactory will get done. The issue is a three-headed problem. It has legal, humanitarian and financial ramifications and all must be addressed at some level, in some order, as will best meet and deal with the issue. Whether one party or the other makes the best political hay out of this should not be part of the conversation. Wishful thinking, I know!
2. Understand the problem is bigger than the kids: We must look at the legal, humanitarian and financial elements as all part of the same problem.
The ramifications of illegal entry into our country are huge in and of themselves. Today it is an influx of unaccompanied minors. Tomorrow it could be terrorists bent on killing people and bringing down our country.
The humanitarian side of the problem is acute. We have thousands of lives now in our care. Like it or not, these are children - souls - who, in the providence of God, are now within our borders. We must not turn our eyes away from their best interests for purely financial reasons.
But, the financial element is not to be overlooked. With our burgeoning national debt bringing crushing cuts on local and state governments, and positioning our nation in line for hardship down the road, it is foolish to believe we can continue to provide free room and board, education, and medical care to those who enter our county illegally.
3. Recognize the problem is complex, and so will be the solution: Given the complexity of the problem, with its legal, humanitarian, and financial components, it is silly to think that a simple answer exists. This 3-headed hydra will take a concerted effort on all fronts.
4. Eliminate unlawful entry into the country through whatever means necessary: The place to start on the legal side is to eliminate the opportunity for people to become criminals by entering our country illegally. It astounds me that few recognize the part we are playing in turning ordinary people into criminals by allowing illegal entry into our country to continue.
Here's my question: What would Israel do if they were asked to fix the problem? I have no doubt the Israeli army would have the border secure, the tunnels filled in, and a whole hoard of border smugglers out of work in a matter of months. Maybe they could show us how!
One issue that needs to be dealt with honestly is the terms we use to designate those who are in the country illegally. It used to be they were illegal aliens. Then it was undocumented immigrants. Now we are hearing they are refugees. If we ever hope to stem the tide of illegal immigration, we must recognize those who engage in this activity are not refugees, or merely undocumented immigrants. They are undocumented because they have chosen not to pursue entry legally, have chosen not to secure the proper documents through proper processes. They are illegal aliens or illegal immigrants, and we must not cloud the issue with manipulative rhetoric.
Of course, it is hard to see these children as criminals given that most probably had no choice in the matter. Perhaps we need another term for them. I suggest unaccountable immigrants. This defines them as foreigners without a right to be in the country, but not criminally liable for their entry.
5. Consider the long-term best interests of the children: There is no question these children need to be taken care of in the best way possible. I assume they are here through no fault of their own. Apparently, parents have paid others to take their kids and get them into our country. Perhaps the parents had good motives, and even believed they were doing what was best for their children.
On the other hand, they may have been simplifying their own lives by giving over responsibility for their kids to others, and ultimately to the people of the USA. The question is this: Are we morally responsible to raise children whose parents, for whatever reason, have abdicated their parental responsibility?
We are responsible to care for them, and then to do what is best for them in the long-term. This will mean setting up temporary quarters (this is being done) where these children can receive room and board and medical help. While this will cost money, our ethical value system as Americans demands it.
However, I do not believe the best long-term interest of the children is to have them grow up apart from their parents and extended families. We should not, as a nation, go on record as saying that poor living conditions constitute a good reason for children to be removed from family. I recognize that many of the societies from which they are coming are violent and unhealthy. That is still no excuse for parents to hand their children over to others and pay for their illegal insertion into the USA.
Plans should immediately be made to transport these children back to their own countries, shifting the responsibility for them to their own governments, parents, and families. Our federal leadership must engage immediately in conversations with those foreign leaders involved and make it clear that we are bringing the kids back at a certain time and to a certain place, and they should be ready to accommodate their re-entry into their home country. We have to put them in a place where their national honor will demand they take their own children back. The idea that one nation can delegate the responsibility for its children to another country is preposterous, and we must not set a precedent here.
6. Eliminate the magnet that is drawing illegal entry into the country: Lastly, we must take steps to eliminate the draw for others to enter our country illegally. Simply put, we must enforce the laws concerning illegal immigration, and pass whatever new legislation is necessary to remove all incentives for illegal entry. We must deport those who break the law, and do so swiftly and consistently. This will send the message that America hangs out the "vacancy" sign only for those who will respect us enough to act in conformity to our laws.
Lastly, I am not a politician, and I am sure there are complexities I haven't understood in regard to this issue. But, some of you asked for these thoughts, and here they are. Any good ideas probably came first from someone smarter than me. Any bad ideas are my responsibility entirely. And, I reserve the right to change my mind on some of these things if, after more study, thought, and prayer, I find that I am on the wrong side.
"Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net".