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Katy Burns: America’s ugly side is showing on the border

Let’s make one thing clear: We Americans pride ourselves on our love of children.

After all, our GIs in World War II famously carried chocolate bars for the ragged and hungry urchins haunting the ruined streets of Europe after that cataclysmic strife. It is a treasured image – that of a generous nation and people who above all treasure and protect society’s youngest and most vulnerable members.

Okay, our record’s not perfect. Way back, we had slavery. A lot of those slaves were little kids, bought and sold like cord wood. We had indentured servitude, where young people were treated barely better. And of course, like the rest of the world, we had child labor and similar horrors.

But we’ve really cleaned up our act, thanks in part to some of the great reforms of the progressive era a century or so ago and in part because (like most civilizations), we’ve become ever more civilized.

Today, as a nation of largely middle-class parents, we dote individually on our own youngsters. We support policies – on the local, state and national levels – designed to protect children and to nurture them for as long as possible.

We support children internationally, not only through our government’s participation in a host of aid organizations. Each year Americans donate billions to help children around the world, spurred by heart-wrenching images of big-eyed waifs staring mournfully at cameras as if searching for better lives.

Through our organized charities, we contribute even more across the globe. We cultivate the image of an extraordinarily giving people.

Fast forward to the present: For the last week or so, the eyes of the nation – at least those reflected in the lenses of TV cameras – have been fixed on the country’s border with Mexico as hordes of children, some with young mothers and others without adults accompanying them, have made their way to the United States, where they’ve essentially fallen into the arms of border agents.

They’ve been streaming across the border in increasing numbers for several years, but lately it’s been a flood. That flood has captured the rapt attention of politicians, news reporters and editors, and millions of ordinary Americans.

These children are overwhelmingly coming from just three Central American countries – Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador – with cultures of pervasive gang violence and soaring murder rates against children in addition to abject poverty.

In such circumstances, parents are desperate to save their children.

Enterprising reporters and others who’ve talked to the young refugees have (at some personal risk) made their way to the places where these children and young people lived. They paint vivid and heart-breaking pictures of the lives the youngsters are trying to escape, even if – for a not inconsiderable number of children – the trip in fact means death along the hazardous route.

As one parent who had sent her child on a treacherous thousand-mile trek north said, “She can stay here, and she will die. Or she can go, and she may die. But she may not.” That any parent would have to face such a draconian choice is horrifying.

The fearful exodus has been promoted by coyotes – agents who spread rumors that there is safe haven in the U.S. and thus profit from parents who pay to have their children ferried north.

Some here say a factor is a compassionate law passed in 2008 with overwhelming bipartisan support and eagerly signed by then-President George W. Bush mandating that border-crossing children from non-contiguous countries have to be given judicial hearings before being sent back. It was designed to stop the serious problem of human trafficking – to protect child victims.

And of course this flood has been blamed on President Obama because, well, it’s July and the GOP smells blood in the political water.

Now everyone wants it stopped, or at least brought under control. Somehow.

That can’t happen unless the partisan furies raging now in our political class, especially in the once Grand Old Party, can be tamped down at least temporarily. Until our political leaders start acting like adults with a common problem to solve.

Meanwhile, what’s chilling – beyond chilling – is the way these smallest and weakest refugees are being greeted by so many American people. They are, somehow, The Other. Trash. Vermin. Untouchable.

It’s crazy. Awful. And dreadfully sad.

When the big-eyed waifs (and their somewhat older brothers and sisters) we’re so eager to support through, say, Save the Children, hit our borders, we hear hysterical warnings that they’re nothing but carriers of drugs and disease.

The worst thing we all saw was the horror in Murrieta, Calif., where a Border Patrol station was set to receive several bus loads of refugees until they could be processed under that 2008 law. The cameras captured the chaos as the buses pulled into town to be met by a mob of hostile townspeople.

As the buses sat idling, their frightened passengers behind tinted windows, the overwhelmingly white protesters screamed their objections, their faces contorted in hate and rage.

And at least for some of us of a certain age, it was chillingly reminiscent of many years ago when we saw similarly hate-filled faces on people in places like Little Rock and South Boston, where the targets of their vitriolic fury were also wide-eyed children.

I am well aware of the fact that the U.S. cannot rescue all the suffering children in the world, even in parts of it so close to home. But I also know that when those children arrive on our own shores, we can’t just pretend they’re not there. Or, worse, use them as pawns and tools in our dysfunctional political wars.

As one minister from Dallas who’d visited the children at the border earnestly told reporters last week, “These aren’t criminals. They’re children, just children, children like any others.”

We’ve spent generations burnishing our image as a compassionate nation, especially when it comes to children. Time to start living up to it.

(“Monitor” columnist Katy Burns lives in Bow.)

Legacy Comments32

The soft, weak, vacillating underbelly of the republican party is again rearing it's ugly face. Like it or not the children are refugees from the drug wars that are hurting Mexico and America. Get mad at the drug traders, not children...

No problem, how many of these refugee children will be residing up on Shaker Road in Canterbury?

Illegal immigration didn't start suddenly in 2008 or 2012, though one might think so based on comments here from the usual suspects. Our current problems with illegal immigration date from the Reagan years. As some have pointed out, the Obama administration has deported far more immigrants than previous administrations. But it also seems clear that the current administration's position on immigration/amnesty has made illegal immigration worse, and encouraged families to send their children north, anticipating they'll be allowed to stay--an unintended consequence of well-intentioned, but short-sighted policies. But as for St. Ronnie: agribusiness, construction, and the hotel and restaurant industry all wanted cheaper labor, and got it under the Simpson-Mazzoli bill, which permitted a flood of cheap labor from south of the border to enter the country. Most Democrats initially opposed the bill--rightly seeing it for what it was--an attack on labor unions and good jobs at good wages. Under the bill, Reagan was supposed to protect the border, and penalize employers who hired illegally. We know how that worked out. Simpson-Mazzoli, along with NAFTA, has done much to destroy the blue collar middle class. Border security then and now took a back seat to business demands for cheap labor. More than ever, much of our economy runs on wage slavery--the H2 program that supplies cheap, "temporary" farm and non-farm labor is filled with human rights and labor violations by employers large and small. No solution can succeed unless we crack down on those who employ illegals, simultaneously with tighter border controls. There's enough blame to spread around to both parties. Acknowledgment of this fact might be the first step to a practical, real world solution that so far has eluded both parties.

I agree with you on most of this. It is a problem caused by both parties. And.... I NEVER liked Reagan's amnesty. I also agree that the Chamber of Crony Capitalism wants low wage workers for businesses. That is also shameful. However, Democrats support more illegals to boost their voter rolls, knowing that they will be easily persuaded to vote for Democrats. However in 2006 Congress passed a law to complete the border fence. Obama has not followed through. Yes, Obama has worsened the situation. It should be noted that Cesar Chavez was against illegal immigration, are you aware of his comments on that? And we don't need "comprehensive" reform as "comprehensive" hides many things within the pages of a bill. We need to take steps to control immigration using existing laws and take on each issue one by one.

Ah, common ground at last.

Ryan Grimm traces the refugee problem back even further--to our meddling in the affairs of the Central American countries starting with our overthrow of the Arbenz administration in Guatemala in 1954. Tellingly, he points out that there is at least one nation whose people are not fleeing from narco-terrorists--Nicaragua, where our efforts at meddling in the nation's affairs largely failed in the 1980's, and where its citizens are largely free of such terror. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/18/refugee-crisis-border_n_5596125.html.

I'm sure Katy will volunteer to take five or six of the tens of thousands of "urchins" in. Don't hold your breath. It is always easier to be a finger wagging Hagatha than someone who actually contributes to society. Plus, with the rampant diseases we eradicated decades ago now emerging on our southern border, such charity could prevent one from the next dinner party.

She has a pretty strong index finger, it is constantly wagging like my great grandmother who could never find anything she found acceptable. It is called crotchety.

wss1 - great idea. Everyone who voted for obama, should, if true to their philosophies - take responsibility for one of these children. No tax money. They wanted them here (to get their parent-potential voters) - they should take responsibility for school, medical, housing and helping them acclimate to US culture & language. Any politicians who votes with the O - should take 2.

Great Idea! All those people who scream at a woman having an abortion volunteer to raise the child themselves. Hopefully it has no health or mental problems, but they will pay for it from cradle to grave,

Again and Again Tillie is confused. the issue is NOT abortion it is that the progressive liberal socialist democrats want somebody else to pay for it.

I quite agree, tillie, next time Pope Francis (a celebate) says anything against birth control or abortion, send him a few thousands children of his flock to care for. Same with five catholic Supreme Court judges!!

To be perfectly fair, Catholic Charities takes care of many children. I am a firm believer in the adage about walking in another man's moccasins before you make judgements about his life.

For once I agree with you Tillie and honestly, religious organizations are much more efficient at delivering services than government.

"...with the rampant diseases we eradicated decades ago now emerging on our southern border...." I call BULLS#!T. The kids (youths?) coming from Central America a MORE likely to be immunized against those formerly "eradicated" diseases than the kids born in this country whose parents refuse to have them immunized for crackpot religious reasons. Look up "projection" in a clinical psych text, and see if it fits your statement, w.

how many of these children are Bow taxpayers being asked to support?

Katy quote: "And of course this flood has been blamed on President Obama because"...blah blab blah. Facts Katy does not tell you. NObama illegally declared he would not enforce the laws - THAT is FACT. He did not get his DREAMER act so he did it unilaterally. This is NObama's Cloward Piven strategy - 100% - If you dont know what that means then you may be a LIDV. Proof is this: http://americanthinker.com/blog/2014/06/stunning_dhs_solicited_bids_for_vendor_to_handle_65000_unaccompanied_minors__in_january.html. Readers should ask themselves this question - Do you think NObama has control of his job? OR is he just winging it?

truth = truth, honesty = honesty, there is no gray area except when it comes to progressives. Remember, the ends justify the means in the eyes of these folks. Good Post BPR!

Right on!! Wait until these kids go to a school with your kids and start spreading diseases that you have never seen but I have had and lived through. Border Patrol Agents are not going home because they don't want to infect their families. Some have already gotten sick. Deport these people and secure the border. I cannot get my head around the stupidity of this present administration.

Which diseases are you thinking about? Leishmaniasis? Sorry, buddy, the insect vector doesn't live here. Chagas' Disease? Ditto. Schistomiasis? I don't think you'll find the right snails crawling around in our lakes. Malaria? Sorry, wrong mosquitoes. On the other hand, if current energy policies aren't changed soon, New Hampshire will soon enough have a hospitable climate for all those pests.

The leftist adm is also taking a page from the play book of the African despot, Idi Amin. Like he used children as human shields, obama is using children as political pawns. Hoping to flood voter rolls with unquestioning followers, they care not for the children as he swills beer and play pool around TX fund raisers. Nor do they care about the dwindling numbers of US citizens who actually work for living that will be further burdened with the associated costs.

TCB let's not forget eating, hot dogs and French fries and hamburgers for photo ops while his less than svelte, significant other preaches to us about how our children need to eat kale. Obama is the poster child for 'do as I say, not as I do' and all of the sycophants are falling in line. Oh, how many days of golf has he now played while the country spins into oblivion? Up by 10AM and done by 4PM unless there is a fundraiser......be he cares so much "about the children"......NOT

Make up your mind. If he does anything, you sue him. If he stops, you complain he is lazy.

Is this TCB commentary serious or satire? Obama using a bi-partisan, Bush-era law to create "leftist" voters for 2024 ? Seems like a bit of a stretch to me.

Not only that, but now Obama is being compared to Idi Amin. And somehow he is going to fast track all these children to become citizens and vote eight years after he is not President any more. This is truly Obama Derangement Syndrome.

And these right wing scarecrows ignore that President Obama has deported MORE illegal border crossers than any of his predecessors. Convenient of them isn't it.

This is pure revisionist history and propaganda. First and foremost, progress made socially for all groups is not due to "progressive" policies. As I recall, civil rights for African Americans was not supported by the majority of Democrat. Moreover, as a society we evolve but we need not evolve into oblivion. These are not refugees, these are children whose parents were irresponsible enough to pay criminals to smuggle them to the United States. Again, these are NOT refugees. Finally the signal sent from Obama was and is "I'm not going to enforce existing laws and by the way I am unilaterally granting the 'dream act'". His weakness and unwillingness to do his job as President is obvious yet denied by progressives like Katy.

Itsa...It was President Lyndon JOhnson, a DEMOCRAT, that signed the civil rights act into law in the mid 1960s. Talk about revisionist history!

....History for walter - Republicans in Congress were the ones who passed the law and handed it to LBJ to sign

Wrong, Itsa. The Civil Rights Act had strong bipartisan support. Yes, a bill where Democrats and Republicans agreed! Here's the kicker: "...[W]hen the landmark Civil Rights Act passed in 1964, it was approved on the basis of geography, not party. It became law only after Republicans and Democrats outside the South joined forces to overturn a filibuster by Southern senators. "Of the 22 Southern senators, 21 voted against it. All but one of the opponents were Democrats. Outside the South, only 1 of the 46 Democrats and 5 of the 32 Republicans in the U.S. Senate opposed it." (Source: http://www.politifact.com/rhode-island/statements/2012/jan/29/travis-rowley/republican-travis-rowley-says-martin-luther-king-j/)

All about the children - another page from Clinton's leftist playbook where everything was all "about the children" clearly to take attention away from real issues. Do anyone really think left operatives disseminated lies and false hopes in central America for the children? Really? its about trying to alter voting groups toward the socialist left. Its a shame you try to focus readers on the shinny hood of this care and to ignore whats underneath. That's right, pay no attention to man behind the curtain.....

the question not even asked here is...why just recently has it been a flood? Answer that and you get a clearer picture of the problem

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