Wednesday, July 16, 2014
Border Kids Face Murrieta Syndrome
Not in your backyard?
What types of things don't you want in your community, or near your home, or close to where your family lives?
None of us wants crime, or pollution, do we? We don't want an unrepentant, self-confessed murderer who somehow got out of jail living next door, do we? We probably wouldn't want a brass band playing 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We wouldn't want an open garbage pit, or a crematorium with a faulty smokestack, or a chemical plant that encourages its employees to smoke on the job, either.
Depending on how righteous or affluent you consider your community to be, you might not want bars, or alcohol sales of any kind, or convenience stores, or fast-food restaurants, or used car lots. You wouldn't want anything that brings down your property values. Or doesn't bring up your self-esteem.
But what is it about a bunch of kids who've been shooed out of their native countries by their own parents? Suddenly, all these adolescents have automatically become as undesirable as a halfway house, or a prison for juvenile offenders. Sure, they're here illegally, but it's a bit more complicated than that, isn't it? Nevertheless, as word spreads of our government's plans for temporarily housing these children from the border, communities across the country are beginning to flatly refuse to cooperate.
It started in the obscure town of Murrieta, California, earlier this month, when a brazen band of conservatives blocked buses of migrant children from reaching a facility set up to hold them while their petitions for entry into the United States are processed.
Now, the sentiment reaches from Iowa to Michigan and Virginia, in small towns and public statehouses, as local activists and governors alike complain about and defiantly protest the prospect of temporarily housing young detainees from the border.
Call it the "Murrieta Syndrome."
It would be one thing if these communities were reasoning that they didn't have the medical or educational facilities to properly address the critical needs most of these children likely face: physical illnesses, malnutrition, psychological traumas of all sorts, mastery of a language other than English, and almost certainly a deficiency in scholastic acumen. These kids might not be unintelligent, but how likely is it that they can perform at their grade level in even a remedial American classroom?
These would be legitimate concerns, especially in states further away from the border, where Spanish-speaking teachers, clinicians, and social workers are in relatively scarce supply. Plus, some of these communities being targeted by our government for hosting the detainees are pretty small, and some of them are rural. Even if every one of these children will be deported soon, scattering them to parts of the country that aren't used to visitors who are so utterly different from the locals doesn't sound helpful for anybody, least of all the migrant children, who are already probably in culture shock.
Then there's the question of how dispersing what may end up being 90,000 kids is cost-effective? Or efficient? Especially if President Obama thinks we need to be spending nearly four billion dollars on special immigration courts to expedite the processing of these kids? Shouldn't we be centralizing these processes, and concentrating our resources? Especially since we don't really know the total scope of this situation?
Yes, that means states like Texas and Arizona would likely bear the brunt of these logistical concerns, but if the emphasis is on exercising a measure of control over this situation, then perhaps it can be resolved that much quicker. And can't we all find value in an expedited resolution?
As it is, however, there's not a lot of our government's initial response to this crisis that seems to be well-thought-out.
To make matters worse, such rational considerations of sympathetic logistics aren't at the top of the lists being given by communities who adamantly oppose hosting these kids. Instead, it's more ugliness.
Conservatives may like to belittle President Obama for not taking this current border crisis seriously, but some of them are using these kids as pawns for a much larger battle over illegal immigration. To these people, the children from Central America are probably all diseased, probably a dangerous risk to the pure young white women in their patriotic American towns, and an unwanted drain on their meager school and public safety resources. Maybe these people are hardened racists; maybe they're just unsophisticated at couching their opinions in altruistic jargon; or maybe they have legitimate concerns about how order can be maintained with an infusion of unwanted children into their relatively sheltered communities. But it sure sounds like they're mostly simple racists.
And if that's the case, then no; these children don't belong near people like that. Personally, I believe that these children need to be returned to the countries - and, more importantly, the families - from which they came. And the sooner the better. Not because we can't afford to house them, or don't want to, but because every day that's used for our intranational bickering is a day lost for each of these kids, and their journey of recovering from this awful episode in their young lives.
Not in your backyard, all you Murrietas of America?
Considering the acrimony you've displayed to "the least of these," the rest of us don't want them in your backyard, either.