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I’ve spent the last week or so watching all the stories of the “children on the border,” and very carefully not saying anything about it.

This is mostly because I don’t think anything can be said that will actually be listened to.

“Children on the border” has become our flavor of the month.  The game lines have been drawn between those with “compassion” and the “haters” who are being “mean to children.”

As a scenario, it lacks coherence. 

The emotional hysteria hides a very important fact:  it’s not just the Meanie Republicans who are declaring that all the children have to be sent back home.  It’s also the Obama administration.

Whatever the Obama administration may end up actually doing about the border children, what it’s saying is that it’s going to pack them all up and send them home.

One of the things that would be a good idea is for everybody to stop and think about why that may be the case. 

And, to give them credit, some of my liberal friends do manage to notice this, usually just before they post another FB status wondering why we’re all being such sons of bitches.

So let me try to spell it out.

One of the things all the emotional language manages to obscure is the actual situation on the ground, which is nothing like the “six year olds are being kept in detention centers and mean people don’t want them to enter the country” dicotomy.

There are certainly six year olds, and the detention centers are awful.  But most of the children are older, and what looks like a fair number of them seem to be in early puberty.

And that matters.

Not because older children are more likely to be violent or criminal.  There is certainly some of that, but there is some of that in any group of adolescent males.

It’s the girls who give me pause in this mess, and it’s the girls who should give you pause, too.

Somebody said on FB that some of these girls show up at the border having been victims of sexual assault, and Robert Reich declared that these children were fleeing the drug war we’ve created.

In the long run, the children may be fleeing the cartels.  In the short run, their parents are paying them. 

That’s  not because their parents are bad people, but because in these countries, no business gets done, of any kind, without the cartels’ permission.

And there’s a lot of money to be made–a lot–in the creation of refugees.

And there’s other things to be made, too.

First the “coyotes” charge the families nearly everything they have to take the kid’s north.

Then they charge a little extra.  Why not? The parents are desperate.  A little short term pain may be worth it if the long term is a life in the US, an education (any education), a chance for the future.

So when the coyote says–sweeten it up, your daughter’s 13, it’s not parental depravity that sometimes says yes.

And even if the parents don’t say yes, once the kid is in the hands of the coyotes, there’s no way to protect a child.

There’s no way to protect a child from the people she meets along the way, coyotes and their guards and other people in the packed-solid box cars the kids travel in along with lots of other people, including older men just as desperate as they are.

Then, when the kids get to the US, it’s not necessarily (or even usually) a safe haven.

There are the dentention centers, yes, but there’s sometimes far worse.

The number of children arriving at the border has increased tenfold in the past five years.  We weren’t expecting it, and we don’t have the structures in place to deal with it.

By law, minors are supposed to be released to family members in the US (if they have them) while awaiting hearings on their refugee status.

And many of these children seem to have such relatives–or, at least, we think they do.

We don’t have the resources to check out the claims of family relationships.  And every year, hundreds of kids sent to “relatives” just disappear off the face of the earth.

There have been rumors for years, long before the present crisis, that some of the kids who disappear are being sold into sexual slavery,which is why the coyotes brought them into the country in the first place.

I understand the impulse to say that we should just take in these kids, that it’s cruel to send them back to their home countries, that the only reason anybody would want to deport them is “hate.”

The problem is that if you let them in, there will be more, more trafficked girls, more rape victims in boxcars, more dead kids in boxcars and along railroad tracks, dead from malnutrition or communicable diseases or because they’ve been murdered for what little they had.

“Just let them in” is not going to help these children in any way.  It’s collaboration with a massive project in human trafficking that will only get bigger the longer it is successful.

The kids who die on the trains, the kids who make it into the country only to be put to use as prostitutes, deserve our protection, too, and they can’t have it as long as their victimizers are successful in doing what they promise–get the kid into the States, at any cost.

To the parents and to the kids.

The emotional demands that we should let in all the children now and if we don’t we have no compassion are like those ill-conceived attempts a few years ago to buy slaves and then free them.  The few slaves who were freed were better off, but thousands of other people became enslaved who would not have been, because well-intentioned idiots had created a much more lucrative market for slaves.

This doesn’t mean we can’t, or shouldn’t, find a way to make the lives of these children better.

It does mean that if we “let them all in right now,” we’ll only make the lives of thousands of other children progressively worse.

The kids who die on the trains, the kids who are raped and exploited there, are out of sight and out of mind.

They shouldn’t be.

Written by janeh

July 16th, 2014 at 10:36 am

Posted in Uncategorized

3 Responses to 'Children'

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  1. You’re wasting your time, Jane. You’re either preaching to the choir, eg moi, or you’re casting pearls before swine. We have the same situation here in Oz, but fortunately we have no land borders with other nations, so the problems are nowhere nearly as serious as yours.

    All of your arguments about the fate of trafficked people en route and after arrival have been spelt out in tedious detail repeatedly to no effect. The “human rights” bleeding hearts cannot get their thinking beyond the immediate emotional distraction of suffering people. They simply will not accept that we have a limited capacity to absorb these people, most of whom are currently economic migrants rather than genuine refugees. They cannot accept that to accept any number is merely to attract many more.

    It’s a hopeless situation and demonstrates better than just about anything else that people can no longer think rationally but are driven simply by emotion.


    16 Jul 14 at 11:28 am

  2. Fully in agreement with Jane, Let me toss a few more facts on the fire.

    There is much talk of “Central America,” but “Central Americans” aren’t fleeing their homes. What we’re getting come from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, while Panama and Belize are increasingly being mentioned as nice places to retire to.

    But our refugees aren’t fleeing to Panama or Belize. And they’re actually fleeing ACROSS Mexico. In this last case, I don’t know how much is that the United States is considered worth the additional danger and expense, and how much is the ferocious Mexican anti-immigration laws. Mexico habitually snipes at the United States for having immigration laws, but Mexico’s own are far more rigorous.

    I’m also getting reports that a number of the immigrants are young mothers with their children–quite surprised that the United States does still have immigration laws, and that they can’t just walk in. It seems to indicate that nuance has rather severe limits across linguistic and cultural borders. A pity: I sometimes like nuance.

    Someone might also want to double-check this, but for all the current UN carping, my understanding of refugee law was that while countries are obliged to aid genuine refugees, the refugee was obliged to stop at the first country in which he or she was not in danger, and not to shop around for some place which might be nicer.

    Mique, I’ll disagree. “People”–naming no exceptions–can be pretty good about thinking through how to get what they want, while emotions determine what they want. But (a) you can’t think rationally to good effect when you’re ill-informed, and (b) costs and benefits to the nation can be pretty abstract. There are plenty of people who will favor policies which they think will cost them personally little while someone else will be left with the tab. That may be immoral, but it’s not necessarily irrational.


    16 Jul 14 at 6:48 pm

  3. I suggest a lottery. People who think the children should be allowed in should put their own names on a list. Whenever a child is admitted, a name should be drawn at random from the list. That person than becomes responsible for providing food, clothing, medical care and education for the child until the child reaches the age of 18.

    In other words, put your money where your mouth is.


    16 Jul 14 at 7:49 pm

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