Given all of the gloom and doom surrounding the reporting of the arrival of these children, there seems to be a few obvious questions that should be asked and answered that are getting lost in the noise of the news cycle. There is, however, one fundamental question from which the others stem: Why has this number doubled?
Based on historic migration trends, this trend seems quite surprising. One would have reasonably expected a gradual ramping up of such cases, possibly resulting from misinformation that trickles through migration networks. In my work, I have come across several immigrants who have received bad or misleading information, such as what documents they can use or what withholding of removal is. So, it is not surprising that the claim that unaccompanied minors have high chance of success, i.e. being able to remain in the US, would filter through the grapevine, be believed, and acted upon.
However, if that were the case, such information would not likely trigger a sudden spike of children, especially considering that these kids are reportedly from different countries. People move and communicate through different migration networks and while there may be some overlap, that so many families thought it wise to put their children at risk so suddenly, without more a long and proven record of success stories, does not make a whole lot of sense. One would predict that a few children would come first, and as they gained “admission,” perhaps withholding from removal or some other temporary relief from deportation, the information would feedback into the migration chains and result in more children coming, which would result in gradually increasing numbers over time rather than the doubling reported.
If that is the case, that the number of unaccompanied minors showing up at the border has been increasing regularly and exponentially over time, then why aren’t we asking why nothing was done about it up until this point? Kids cut lose on their own is no small problem, especially considering that they are kids – individuals who, by statue, are not held to the same level of responsibility as adults.
If the number of kids showing up without their parents has indeed grown exponentially and especially if they are indeed sick, then we clearly have a humanitarian crisis on our hands. Not getting to the bottom of why it is occurring or attempting to ameliorate the problem is not only immoral but irresponsible.
Considering morality, how can the US, a “Christian nation,” in good conscious call for the removal of these children, especially if they are to be removed to uncertain circumstances? If their parents jettisoned them, why should we believe they would take them back? If the arrival of the unaccompanied minors indeed has been a sudden phenomenon, simply shipping them off is not the way to deal with the issue. The US must evaluate and deal with the reasons these children are coming – just as we would deal with the refugees from a genocide or natural disaster.
Calling for their outright removal as Rick Perry and Raul Labrador have done or their removal in the event that we can locate their parents Hillary Clinton’s are all inadequate and, at best, temporary fixes. President Obama’s plan to expedite the removal of unaccompanied children simply denies them due process, a right they ought to be afforded under the Constitution. Moreover, some of the knee-jerk solutions to the state problem of the arrival of the unauthorized children, such as “seal the border” are either untenable or would require the U.S. to fundamentally change the way its laws work.
By failing to consider what the push and pull factors leading to this trend, any policy enacted to “solve” the problem will be doomed to fail at several levels, including failure to achieve its goal and failure to avoid unwanted consequences, such as these kids’ potential recruitment into, or abuse at the hands of, criminal gangs.
Detractors might ask, “Why should we care about these children. They aren’t ours.” Quite simply, if the US wants to continue to be a hegemon, even if only in its hemisphere, then what happens to children in other countries should worry American policy makers. Failure to respond to the issues which seem to either be pushing or pulling these young people to the United States will surely result in disaster. “What will become of these children?” should be a question that every American citizen and policy maker should care about.
As a society, we seem to agree that children are an especially vulnerable population, though it seems that an exception is being wrought now as we consider immigration. Frankly, this is a mistake. The fact remains that children are indeed vulnerable and impressionable. While it may well be true that the US lacks the resources to deal with these children within its borders, ignoring the problems they face in their home countries is also not an option. So, what is to be done? US policy makers should have regional discussions with the governments that are emitting the majority of these children, and develop a bilateral plan with each to ameliorate the problems.
If the US does not believe that those countries can be trusted to solve the problem, it is a bit odd to think that it would hesitate to act unilaterally in light of its long history of interference in the domestic politics of the Middle East and Latin America before that. Irrespective of the eventual route the US chooses to follow, to think that this problem of the border children will magically sort it out is a bit naïve, and would cede the leadership role that US seems to strive to maintain.
Undoubtedly, without proper action, we are indeed inviting disaster.