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State, national columnists

Immigration protests short on compassion

By July 29, 2014

If one were looking for an occasion to convene fellow protestors, to make signs and placards, to post picket lines, and to compose protest chants, many possibilities present themselves.

For example, why aren’t we more angry and vocal about climate change, which appears to be threatening us, not in the distant future, but right now?

Why don’t we protest wealth and income inequality? One percent of our nation’s population controls an unconscionably large proportion of the country’s wealth and income and has managed to manipulate legislators and market regulations to keep that proportion growing. Shouldn’t that provoke a few sustained protests?

What about the rising cost of higher education? The de facto resegregation of many public schools? Our sky-high rates of incarceration?

So many protest-worthy circumstances, so little time.

Yet over the past several weeks, hundreds of highly charged protests have been mounted all across the country — more than 300 with 12,000 protestors, according to the president of Americans for Legal Immigration.

The object of protest? The recent surge in arrivals on our border of children who are fleeing violence in their own countries, especially Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.

The protestors’ position isn’t irrational. Despite the inscription on the Statue of Liberty, the United States probably can’t and shouldn’t accept all of the world’s tired and poor, the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

Still, the contrast between these noble sentiments and the messages on the signs carried by protestors is striking: “Send Them Back, With Birth Control”; “If You Can’t Feed Them Don’t Breed Them”; “Stop Rewarding Start Deporting”; “Secure Our Borders Not Change Diapers.”

The strident invective of these protestors is in stark contrast to compassionate responses by churches and charitable organizations that have taken more to heart Matthew 19:14, where Jesus says, “Suffer the little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for to such belongeth the kingdom of heaven.”

Of course, despite our half-hearted aspirations toward Christian nationhood, Bible verses like these don’t achieve much traction amid the cynical politics that have attached to this border “crisis.” Texas Gov. Rick Perry recently said of the record-high apprehensions of immigrants from countries other than Mexico, “These are people that are coming from states like Syria that have substantial connections back to terrorist regimes and terrorist operations.”

PolitiFact Texas rated this statement a “Pants on Fire” prevarication.  Perry embraces the Republican default position, which is that this “crisis” is bigger than it really is and, most important, as with everything else, it’s President Barack Obama’s fault.

But the politics obscures the fact that we’re talking about children, some of whom fled their countries because they face torture, murder or coercion into gang life. Few parents would send their kids on a dangerous trip across Mexico unless hope at home had been exhausted.

These children’s “illegality” hasn’t been established. If they arrive in the United States from countries other than Mexico or Canada, our law provides for an immigration hearing to determine their status. Obama is required to carry out the provisions of the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008. Accordingly, he has asked Congress for $3.7 billion to deal with the current upsurge.

Predictably, Republican congressmen, always avid to obstruct, blame and embarrass Obama, refused.

Of course, money always lies close to the heart of a problem like this one. Some protestors say we shouldn’t be spending $3.7 billion on foreigners when we could spend that money at home on our own children. Their point is well-taken: according to the Department of Agriculture, 16 million American children live in households without reliable access to nutritious food. Shouldn’t we take care of our own first?

Probably. But nobody is setting aside that $3.7 billion for our own children. They’ll continue to go hungry.

CBS News reports that we spent $56 billion last year on our pets. In that context, $3.7 billion doesn’t seem like a lot to pay in order to practice a little compassion.

John M. Crisp, an op-ed columnist for McClatchy-Tribune, teaches in the English Department at Del Mar College in Corpus Christi, Texas. Readers may send him email at [email protected]

John M. Crisp


Discussion | 16 comments

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  • DanielJuly 29, 2014 - 7:14 am

    If you really want to show compassion have that $3.7 billion earmarked for those countries to teach the parents and their government the responsibility of having children and encourage private economic development instead of having kids then shipping them off for Americans to support, raise and educate them. Being history's biggest "free" nanny is not compassionate without trying to help the heart of the issue.

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  • The SugarJarJuly 29, 2014 - 7:46 am

    Repeating the "solution," no calling it a solution, doesn't make it so. You need accurate information, maybe an interest in world events. Maybe the ability to look at the world through a different set of "eyes"?

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  • Rick WoodJuly 29, 2014 - 8:09 am

    Republicans are suing the president for not following the law, but at the same time they won't fund what is needed for him to follow the law.

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  • Larry WJuly 29, 2014 - 8:20 am

    Rick. News flash! We are out of money. The government needs to decrease its spending and balance the budget.

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  • Rick WoodJuly 29, 2014 - 8:27 am

    $59 billion on our pets?

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  • Rick WoodJuly 29, 2014 - 8:29 am

    $trillions for a useless war? Lack of money is the most desperate of arguments. Keep trying, and be honest.

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  • Larry WJuly 29, 2014 - 9:46 am

    Rick. We can all point to perceived spending errors but we can't continue to spend at this rate. I for one wouldn't be spending billions on pets but I have no issue how people choose to spent their own money. So, if you want to be compassionate donate some of your own money to help these folks. Samaritans purse is one of many wonderful charities that helps all over the world.

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  • Rick WoodJuly 29, 2014 - 10:08 am

    LW: That's not a bad idea, but the government is in the way. The charities that normally would deal with the humanitarian needs here are getting government funding and aren't asking for private donations. I suspect they can't act without government approval, which is as it should be. It would be interesting to see what would happen if the government got out of the way and let private charity take over. Would you give too?

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  • Larry WJuly 29, 2014 - 10:23 am

    Rick. I would be glad to help. When the government gets involved the charity suddenly becomes a right with a huge bureaucracy attached. Not all problems should be fixed by the Feds. They often make the problem worse. They have done an excellent job with the war on poverty. Sarcasm intended.

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  • Rick WoodJuly 29, 2014 - 10:36 am

    Well, maybe if congress does not act before recess the various charities could take over in the interim. They should be authorized to do so. I think that's an executive order Obama would issue. I'll be first in line to donate. Salvation Army, Red Cross, etc., are you listening? Please form a coalition.

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  • Larry WJuly 29, 2014 - 11:18 am

    How much?

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  • FDCJuly 29, 2014 - 8:53 am

    For instance.....

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  • Mr. SmithJuly 29, 2014 - 9:42 am

    Obama and company pulled that $3.7 billion figure out of their......um, hat. Then, in typical fashion, he refused to consider compromising with the GOP on the amount and/or trade-offs like setting the 2008 deportation law aside as part of the deal. Obama has never learned the art of compromise, because he considers it unnecessary as Emperor, to do so. He labels the GOP as the party of "No" and gets away with it because the media backs him. Meanwhile over 350 bills passed in the House with bi-partisan support, sit untouched in the Senate, awaiting action. At this time, Obama is considering what may be a sweeping course of amnesty by unilateral executive action. This could become a constitutional crisis--and usher President Biden into the White House. All because of the "man who would be king." President Biden--has a nice ring to it.

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  • Rick WoodJuly 29, 2014 - 10:22 am

    Mr.S: Did the Republicans in the House pass a clean humanitarian funding bill? I doubt it, for the Senate would undoubtedly have agreed and Obama signed it. They could debate the 2008 law after recess. 350 bills is meaningless if there is a poison pill in every one. Then there are all the ones that have no chance on their face. Take for instance the 40+ bills to repeal ObamaCare. Our only solace is the House does not represent the nation. The Republican majority is only sustained by gerrymandering. That too will fail eventually, and when it does, we will be a one-party nation. I don't like that idea either, but the "tough love" the Republicans need isn't coming and their demise is being masked by the gerrymandering. That, sexism, and racism against this president and against the emerging majority made up of minorities in this country. A party of old white men can't survive for long, especially if the old white men coming up are like me, and they increasingly are.

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  • Let's build it.....July 29, 2014 - 11:32 am

    Hmmm....$3.7 Billion. Wonder how many miles of fence that would build?

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  • JagJuly 29, 2014 - 7:31 pm

    Really, 56 billion? I don't have any pets but maybe I will go out and spend a couple of hundred on a salt water fish tank so I will have something to cook later,,, That should cover the immigration and animal rights people

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