Bordering on Heartless

More Concern for Borders than Immigrant Children

Glenn Beck says he has come under fierce attack from some of his fellow conservatives for a grave transgression.

His crime? He announced plans to bring food, water, teddy bears, and soccer balls to at least some of the tens of thousands of Central American children who have crossed the border into the United States.

“Through no fault of their own, they are caught in political crossfire,” Beck said. “Anyone, left or right, seeking political gain at the expense of these desperate, vulnerable, poor and suffering people are reprehensible.”

Beck, not averse a certain grandiosity, let us know that “I’ve never taken a position more deadly to my career than this.” But assume he’s right -- and he may well be. It’s one more sign of how the crisis at our border has brought out the very worst in our political system and a degree of plain nastiness that we should not be proud of as a nation.

Let’s stipulate: This is a difficult problem. Unless the United States is willing to open its borders to all comers -- a goal of only the purest libertarians and a very few liberals -- we will face agonizing choices about whom to let in and whom to turn away.

Moreover, it’s clearly true, as The Washington Post editorialized, that “there is nothing humanitarian in tacitly encouraging tens of thousands of children to risk their lives, often at the hands of cutthroat smugglers, to enter this country illegally.”

But instead of dealing with this problem in a thoughtful way reflecting shared responsibility across party lines, President Obama’s critics quickly turned to the business of -- if I may quote Beck -- seeking political gain. Last week, the only issue that seemed to matter was whether Obama visited the border.

It’s not just partisan politics, either. It should bother religious people that politicians pay a lot of attention when conservative church leaders speak out against contraception and gay rights but hardly any when religious voices suggest that these children deserve empathy and care.

There are those in our clergy who could usefully consider whether they speak a lot louder when they’re talking about sexuality than when they’re preaching about love. Nonetheless, many religious leaders are condemning callousness toward these kids.

“The church cannot be silent,” the Rev. Gabriel Salguero, president of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition, wrote in Time magazine, “as angry groups of people stoking the flames of fear yell at buses filled with helpless immigrant children and women.”

And Sister Mary Ann Walsh, the media director for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, called for “a moral conscience moment” akin to the response during the civil rights era “in the welcoming of children and others escaping the violence in such countries as Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.”

It is said, and it’s true, that the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act that swept through Congress and was signed by President George W. Bush in December 2008 has had the unintended consequence of encouraging the Central American children to head north. To protect victims of sex trafficking, the law guaranteed an immigration hearing to unaccompanied minors, except for those from Canada and Mexico.

As the bill was making its way through Congress, members of both parties could not stop congratulating themselves for their compassion. The bill, said Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., arose from “exemplary bipartisan cooperation” and showed how big-hearted we are.

“Together, let us end the nightmare of human trafficking,” he declared, “and lead the world to see, in the poignant words of Alexis de Tocqueville, that America is great because America is good.”

Suddenly, although kids are still involved, we are far less interested in being “good” than in protecting our borders.

All the pressure now is to change the Wilberforce Act so it would no longer apply to Central American children. There’s a strong logic to this. The law does create a powerful incentive for unaccompanied minors from Central America (which is not that much farther away than Mexico) to seek entry, en masse, to our country.

But there is another logic: that the anti-trafficking law really did embody a “good” instinct by holding that we should, as much as we can, treat immigrant children with special concern. Do we rush to repeal that commitment the moment it becomes inconvenient? Or should we first seek other ways to solve the problem? Yes, policymakers should be mindful of unintended consequences. But all of us should ponder the cost of politically convenient indifference.

(c) 2014, Washington Post Writers Group

About the Author

E. J. Dionne Jr. is a syndicated columnist, professor of government at Georgetown University, and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. His most recent book is Our Divided Political Heart: The Battle for the American Idea in an Age of Discontent (Bloomsbury Press).



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It is so clear that even Glen Beck gets it. Christians, as a rule forget who is their neighbor. Despite the crystal clear teaching of Jesus. CFR the story of the Good Samaritan. This may be the clearest example of what the biblical "hardening of the heart" means. The statistics state that America is a country of churchgoers. Translate hypocrites. Ronald Reagan incited this with his self serving: "I endorse you."  Since that time what was a healthy separation of church and state has devolved into Christian leaders becoming a band of hating brass symbols. Maybe the humanists can set a better example.  For the first time humanists have won the right to be recognized with the same privileges that religious groups enjoy. Maybe they will show Christians how to be humanitarian.

And have our church leaders considered the fact that a great majority of these kids and their families are Catholic? For them to go to such hardships to flee the violence and crime so much a part of their home country, borders upon sainthood. Many also die along the way, giving their lives in martyrdom to a search for a safe place to be family, to not be raped and molested, to avoid being co-opted into a life of criminal activity just to survive. If Catholic Bishops and priests will not speak out now, when will they?

So Bill, Mike:

How many of these illegal immigrants will you be taking into your homes?  About six each would be a great start.  I really do admire your generosity and committment to Christian ideals!  You both are wonderful examples for all of us.  And keep us posted on your new arrivals.

In covering the sad plight of the immigrant children from Honduras, Guatamala, and El Salvador I have noticed that our media outlets almost always fail to point out that U.S. foreign policy over the last few decades had anything at all to do with the terrible mess that the majority of those peoples find themselves in today.  Did not our policies help set up dictatorships with CIA-inspired coups?  Did not our School of the Americas at Fort Bragg train top officers in those coups?  Did not our aid back up the interests of the ruling elite rather than help the masses, all under the pretext of stopping Communism?  Did our policies have nothing to do with the  rape of the four nuns, the slaying of the six Jesuits together with their housekeeper and her daughter, and the assasination of Archbishop Romero, to name but a few?  "Sow the wind, and reap the whilwind."  I should think that we owe these immigrant children something more than our pity.  When it comes to our pocketbooks I fear that we sometimes tend to forget the words inscribed on our Statue of Liberty.  We take it for granted that countires llike Jordan will take care of refugees from Syria.  I think it should be our turn to go and do likewise right now.  It will cost us something.

Andy Galligan        2929 N. MacArthur Dr. #58  Tracy, CA 95376-2018       (209) 740-0777


Yes, we know:  It is always our fault when anything bad happens in the world.  But even if, your comments do nothing to alleviate the situation.  Why not take a couple of these kids into your  home.  Now your talking.  I wish you well.



Would you think it different that just taking a "walk" if it was a narco-gang saying to you "we will rape your sister and kill all your family if you don't join our gang?" As a parent I would be doing anything to help my child escape the chaos.  And  not necessarily  to the United States.  Immigration in surrounding countries is up 750% this year.  This is a refugee crisis.  Are we to turn our backs the way we did with Jewish refugees by refusing them visas and returning the passengers of the SS St. Louis to death camps in Europe?

You're so quick to throw out challenges- Take an illegal into your home.  If you think it is such a contrived or faux problem how about spending a week without security guards in Honduras (may I suggest San Pedro Sula) in spite of the following US State Department travel warning:

"crime and violence are serious problems throughout the country, and the Government of Honduras lacks the resources to address these issues. Since 2010, Honduras has had the highest murder rate in the world. The Honduran Ministry of Security recorded a homicide rate of 75.6 per 100,000 people in 2013"?    If you go you better ask Jesus to walk with you.

I find some of the posts here to be as incredible as I found a bunch of folks blocking busses of mothers and kids in Califonia.  But hey.  John, I don't know about your family history.  Perhaps you are of native American decent.  But my great grandfather and his big brother left Ireland in 1866 and sailed to Boston looking for a better life. When they entered the harbor, they threw all their blonging they weren't wearing overboard.  they wanted to start a new life and they hoped a better one.  Not to different from these kids.  And oh yeah, he was 14.  His big brother was 16. In a place where "No Irish Need apply" was more than a slogan.  But he, his children and his grandchildren and great grandchildren have served and built this nation along with others who likewise came here under similar circumstances. 

I recently attended a funeral where the gospel reading was Matthew's version of the final Judgement.  The contrast has always struck me, as it did this time, between those who think they are Christian because they obey rules, and what Matthew presents as the basis for the judgement. In that scene, Jesus sitting in judgement utters not a word about covetting your neighbor's wife or goods or keeping holy the Lord's Day.  The saved are the those who "did for the least," including inviting in the stranger, I might add.    James says something quite similar when he defines religion that is pure as entailing visiting the ophans and caring for widows.  Heaven is going ot be an intersting experience if Glenn Beck has a better seat than some members of the hierachy.  But then he actually followed the gospel...

Bob, your retort is not only disingenuous but it's based on a completely false premise - that the only solution open to the United States is for us to house these children.  Of course there are many, many ways to help these kids and their families, not the least of which is letting those who have family in the US locate with them.  I've watched in disbelief as American citizens rail against bus loads of these children; it is a heartbreaking and shameful turn of events in our nation's history. 

In complete agreement with you, I suggest that this is a clear instance where the "church"--the hierarchy even more than the rest of us--needs to LEAD in caring for real children in real need. "They will know we are Christians by our love" is a cliche that, for once, could have an authentic ring to it--if the BISHOPS in particular would show the heart of Jesus to the world.

My grandparents arrived in the US from differnt parts of Ireland in the 1890s, early 1900s. Both were sponsored by Irish relatives already in the US and had to work for their sponsors as farm hand and house keeper for a designated period of time. More recently an Indian Catholic priest wanted to spend six months in the US to study the role of Indian priests in Catholic parishes. In order for him to obtain a visa I had to send a registered, notarized letter to the American Consulate guaranteeing that I would be responsible for his maintenance, including any medical expenses, while he was in the US. And today the US is being invaded by tens of thousands arriving illegally through what is laughingly called a border. The US is a nation of immigrants, legal immigrants sponsored by relatives,friends and even companies who arrived here with no expectaion that the government would provide food, shelter and medical care. In those early days Immigration po;ice patrolled the streets and were free to ask anyone for their papers. Failure to produce documents led to deportation on the first available vessel leaving New York or another port city. No doubt there were illegal entries but they were the exception not the rule.

E. Patrick Mosman:

The indigenous Americans would say that ALL the Europeans and their descendants are here illegally.  Ever see the T-shirt "Columbus Didn't Discover America--He Invaded It"?

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