My Turn: U.S. has moral obligation to protect children
Yesenia Del Carmen 8, carries a cross reading "No to the Deportations," "as she and her grandmother join an immigrant-rights supporters "Procession of the Cross" walk, led by U.S.-born children from the Federal building to the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles, Friday, Apr. 18, 2014. Immigrants urged the Obama administration today to stop deportations that they said are splitting up families. Del Carmen worries her father could be deported while at work. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
In 1939, 937 Jewish refugees fled Hitler’s Europe aboard the ship St. Louis and tried to immigrate to the United States.
Our State Department prevented the ship from docking and denied the passengers entry. A desperate appeal to the White House went unanswered.
The ship was forced to return to Europe, where many of the passengers died in the Holocaust. The same year, Congress rejected the Wagner-Rogers bill, which would have granted 20,000 German Jewish children admission to the United States.
Today, Americans, looking back on these events, are amazed that we could have been so callous.
Seventy-five years later, thousands of unaccompanied children from Mexico and Central America are seeking entry to our country. Like those aboard the St. Louis, many are fleeing from violence in their countries. Others are escaping severe poverty or trying to find their parents.
The U.N. says many are eligible for international protection. Yet on June 30, the administration asked Congress for authority to speed deportation of the children. This is primarily a moral issue, not a law enforcement issue. It is unacceptable to send these children back into danger.
After all, U.S. trade, military and drug policies helped create the conditions the children are trying to escape. We need meaningful, compassionate immigration reform to prevent the incarceration and deportation of innocent people fleeing for their lives. More immediately, the children need legal protection.
Under current law, they are not even furnished with counsel at their deportation hearings. Organizations helping the children deserve our support.
(Judy Elliot lives in Canterbury.)