Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Good Politics is Bad News for Border Kids


It's no secret:  good politicians don't necessarily enact good policies.

And in an election year, elected officials believe making risky decisions is bad politics.

For proof, all we need is the dearth of official action regarding the tens of thousands of juvenile immigrants coming across our southern border with Mexico.  A planeload of these kids was flown back to Central America yesterday, but whether you're for deportation or asylum, one plane full of them is a drop in the bucket, numbers-wise.  It's not a sign that comprehensive action is being made to stem the crisis.

Texas governor Rick Perry, a Republican, has been joined by none other than the state's Democratic nominee to replace him this fall, the much-celebrated Wendy Davis, in calling for President Barak Obama to visit our border with Mexico.  Although they may have different designs on the President's proposals, both liberal and conservative politicians in Texas want Obama to see the urgency of the situation for himself.  But the President refuses to do it.

He's asked for billions of dollars to ramp-up our immigration agencies so that these kids can be processed faster through the system, but Republicans are balking at both the pricetag - approximately $41,000 per child, if 90,000 are processed, as experts predict - and the lack of specifics in his request.  Meanwhile, from both left-wing and right-wing corners, the media is having a field day at the expense of all these kids, blasting their partisan opponents for being intransigent while so much is at stake for such vulnerable youngsters.

Of course, it's not just politics that has people playing to their constituents.  

Here in Dallas, two prominent pastors have publicly taken two opposing sides of the debate, with a white pastor from a wealthy, conservative Baptist congregation arguing for a strong border policy, and a black pastor from a liberal Baptist church on the poor side of town trying to shame his white colleague for his lack of compassion.

It's also been argued by some liberal Christians that the Baby Jesus was a child migrant fleeing violence in his hometown.  But this is simply bad theology mixed with inaccurate history.  For one thing, Christ never broke any laws, particularly since immigration laws did not exist when He lived on Earth.  For another thing, the infant Christ did not travel alone, but with His parents, who had been warned in a dream to flee Herod, before any violence had erupted.

From a political angle, the Washington Post today published the results of a poll they conducted with ABC News that indicates upwards of 60% of America's electorate disapprove of the President's handling of our current border crisis.  Roughly half of the voters questioned said they support spending the $3.7 billion the President has proposed to throw at the problem.  And Republicans were roundly faulted for being too vociferous on the deportation issue, and therefore, too uncaring about the plight these children likely face if we simply send them home.

This is July, and our mid-term elections are coming up in November, which doesn't leave a lot of wiggle room for politicians to actually take a stand - a stand that could strongly impact their electability quotient this fall.  Especially since illegal immigration has been a hot-button can they've been kicking down the proverbial road for years now.  Confounding almost everyone seems to be the fact that we don't know how many kids are still in transit, still working their way through Central America, planning to come into our country seeking assistance - or asylum, as some are now calling it.  It will be months before the true scope of this tragedy can be grasped, except by then, we might be deep into election season.

Which situation is more important to politicians?  Those unaccompanied kids at our border, or re-election?

Currently, many politicians may simply be holding their breath, hoping they can wait it out a little while longer before having to commit to something that their constituents may find unpopular.  And to what might they eventually commit?  Well, conservatives will likely lean towards supporting an expedited deportation process, and liberals will likely lean towards blanket amnesty.  Unfortunately for everybody, however, our otherwise liberal President's big-budget plan, as it's currently understood, is geared towards deportation, not amnesty.  And he can't get the support he needs because he's a lame duck, and increasingly, a sitting duck for every politician of both stripes who thinks they can better woo voters apart from him than with him.

So, as is usually the case, these kids are in political limbo.  Right now, as you're reading this, if you're reading this close to its posting date.  If you have kids, what are they doing right now?  And how hard are you needing to work and plan to provide for their food, shelter, education, protection, clothing, exercise, health, socialization, and transportation?  Now multiply that time, expense, and energy by the approximately 60,000 kids who are being babysat by border patrol officials and contract social workers.  How long can this tenuous childcare operation last before resentment, anger, and frustration become rampant?  Both among these kids, and their caregivers?

Many factors have combined to create this tragic dilemma.  And one of those factors involves politicians who have become good at their craft, which means they've become an expert at staying in office.  They become an expert at politics that may be good or bad for the rest of us, but ultimately, is beside the point to them.  And this applies not only to America's politicians, but the politicians in the countries from which these children have come.

A lot of Republican politicians like to claim that we're a country of exceptionalism.  Well, this is one of those times where our politicians on both sides of the aisle can put that exceptionalism into practice.

Of course, Congress has pretty much given itself the entire month of August off.  Hey - it's the Great American Summer Vacation.  Surely the kids will understand, right?


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