State, national columnists

What should the US do about illegal immigrant children?

The crisis along the southern United States border has politicians and immigration officials scrambling. More than 52,000 children, mostly from Central American nations, have arrived so far this year. The Department of Homeland Security is running out of space to hold them all.

President Barack Obama is asking Congress for $3.7 billion to cover the growing “care, feeding, and transportation costs of unaccompanied children and family groups.” Texas Gov. Rick Perry criticized the president’s plan, saying more money should go toward securing the border.

But the larger question may be whether these illegal immigrant children should be allowed to stay in the United States or deported to their home countries. How much compassion can America afford? Joel Mathis and Ben Boychuk, the Red-Blue America columnists, weigh in.

Joel Mathis

There’s not a single good reason the United States – a nation built by immigrants – should not welcome and embrace the thousands of young children appearing on our border. We should do everything we can to welcome them, make them safe and install them with families that will help them become part the next great generation of Americans.

Consider the traditional arguments against illegal immigration: These youngsters aren’t here to compete for jobs, so they’re not going to drive down wages or take employment away from current citizens. Assimilation won’t be a problem, since they’re arriving young enough for America to make Americans out of them.

And the idea that we should turn them away simply because they’re here illegally? That illegality is a choice we’ve made, and not necessarily for good reasons. We can unmake it for better reasons. Otherwise, the argument is a tautology in the service of cruelty.

Which leaves one possible good argument against allowing all those youngsters in the United States: That they’ll cost the country an enormous amount of money spent on care and services that we should be spending on American citizens instead.

Maybe. But we’re already spending a lot of that money keeping those children in camps, behind fences, as they wait their turn to go through a bureaucracy. We can make that money work for America’s future, or we can toss it down a rathole as we turn away youngsters who need what we can offer and who can pay us back through public service and a revitalized economy for decades to come.

For decades to come, America will be judged for how it treats these children – children! – who have fled evil and deprivation in their own lands. If we truly are as an exceptional a country as we tell ourselves, we will become amazing hosts to them. They deserve our love, our generosity and our willingness not to be as stupid and hard-hearted as our politics sometimes make us. It’s time to welcome these children to their new home.

Ben Boychuk

One of the most reprehensible trends of the past generation is the use and abuse of children as political props. What’s happening along the southern U.S. border may be a humanitarian crisis, but it’s a crisis of our own making. This child abuse needs to stop.

How did this happen? First, President George W. Bush in 2008 signed a law aimed at combating trafficking of children. But the law has had the opposite effect, as families pay thousands of dollars to smugglers to get their children to the border.

The law gave hefty new protections to kids entering the United States alone, as long as they weren’t from Canada or Mexico. It’s no accident that most of the children who have arrived in the past two years are from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

And what makes the past two years so significant? In 2012, then-Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano released a memo claiming “prosecutorial discretion” in exempting nearly 1 million illegal immigrants – all minors – from deportation.

The message was unambiguous: If you’re under 18, and you arrive in the United States alone and in one piece, odds are, you’ll get to stay.

We were once a nation built by immigrants. It’s true. And we need immigrants today. But we also need educated people, people with skills – people with something to give. We do not tens of thousands of destitute children sent here by their families and abetted by their governments on rumors of free housing, free education and free health care.

“It’s just obvious,” the late, great free-market economist Milton Friedman famously said, “you can’t have free immigration and a welfare state.”

Is our immigration and naturalization system hopelessly broken? No question. Fact is, some 4.5 million people around the world are waiting for their legal opportunity to enter the United States. They’ve done everything the law requires, yet they languish because our bureaucracy is ill-equipped to meet the demand.

Americans are a compassionate people. We should feed these children, shelter them, clothe them and treat the sick as needed. And then we should send them back to their home countries where they belong.

Ben Boychuk ([email protected]) is associate editor of the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal. Joel Mathis ([email protected]) is associate editor for Philadelphia Magazine. Visit them on Facebook: www.facebook.com/benandjoel.

Ben Boychuk and Joel Mathis


Discussion | 27 comments

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  • LindaJuly 18, 2014 - 6:25 am

    I feel for the children but they need to go back. It is my opinion that the parents are getting smarter. The only reason they are coming here is because their parents tell them to go and they know we won't turn kids away. Basically they are using their own kids to get a foot in the door. We already have our own children that need our help but our government is in denial. We need to help our kids before we help the world.

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  • JagJuly 18, 2014 - 7:05 am

    Joel your comment said (America will be judged for how it treats these children – children) Great so lets kick A** and show the world we wont stand for this and send them home while we have the worlds attention.

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  • CD BrooksJuly 18, 2014 - 7:16 am

    Where's the compassion for children that just happen to be oh yeah, AMERICAN CITIZENS?! Why do we have problems needing attention but they're being ignored? NO! Enough of this one for me, one-two-three for everybody else! Rein it in begin the process of making us whole and prosperous again.

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  • S KJuly 18, 2014 - 7:41 am

    Send them back the SAME DAY they arrive, no hearings, no housing, no nothing, especially near 4 Billion $$$s needed!!!

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  • CD BrooksJuly 18, 2014 - 7:48 am

    S K, I know right? Simple!

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  • clancyJuly 18, 2014 - 8:50 am

    Simpler. Send them back now. Pull our military out of countries that hate and secure all our boarders. Do not let them cross in the first place.

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  • DanielJuly 18, 2014 - 11:18 am

    Why were you "progressives" so adamant about returning Elian Gonzalez back to the prison of Cuba after he crossed the ocean in a raft and watch his mother die? Was it because he was from a state with you favorite form if government, communism and your hero that runs it, Fidel? How about the decorated marine that Mexicans have thrown into jail merely because he misjudged the border, are these 2 peoples lives less valuable than Bergdhal's or foreigners from Central America? Let's hear your excuses and hypocrisy.

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  • Rick WoodJuly 18, 2014 - 11:29 am

    Because his father was in Cuba, if I recall correctly. But indeed, let's give each of these children the same attention THAT case got. You're not making a very good argument for the "send them home" side.

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  • CD BrooksJuly 18, 2014 - 1:53 pm

    Daniel, still haven't presented any facts from your garbage. Remember, I asked you to bring some evidence? With the Gonzales case I believe you're going back to 2000. He was here with relatives, his father wanted him home with him in Cuba. That case went as it should. But you're still suggesting Obama is a communist? Ordinarily I wouldn't continue, but I love seeing you make yourself look so stupid. So you have it figured out now? THIS marine "misjudged" the border? Why are you so anxious to accept this story? Wow Daniel, garbage in garbage out. If it wasn't for hypocrisy, you'd never write anything.

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  • Rick WoodJuly 18, 2014 - 11:34 am

    There's a lot of ground between "take them all in" and "send them all back." That ground is occupied by "due process," one of America's "weapons of mass attraction" that should be on full display here for the whole world to see.

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  • Mr. SmithJuly 18, 2014 - 11:55 am

    Rick: You seem to be saying that all 60,000 and (counting) of these illegals deserve nothing less than a deportation hearing. Do you know how silly that sounds (assuming I interpreted your rather vague post correctly)? It would be more like a Weapon of Mass Lunacy in the eyes of the rest of the world in my humble opinion.

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  • Rick WoodJuly 18, 2014 - 2:56 pm

    Mr.S: No, I'm saying "due process." First thing is to see that these children are properly cared for. Second thing is to give them due process before disposing of their case. If the law now requires a definition of due process that it is not practical for us to use with these numbers, we should change it. To summarily send them all home is not due process. Are we even doing the first thing? The whole world is watching while our government--of the greatest nation on Earth--is paralyzed. We're failing daily.

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  • Mr. SmithJuly 18, 2014 - 3:32 pm

    Rick: Are you under Pelosi's spell? We are caring for the children as best we can. Why do you keep insisting that we care for them? Nobody's arguing with you on that, in case you haven't noticed. The rest of your post is lost in some "rabbit hole" nonsense of giving "due process" either by following current law, or changing(!) the law.....to do what? How long would that take? Make it the same for all illegal entrants from Mexico and Canada if that will ease your heartburn over sending these UNINVITED guests home as soon as possible. Obama could do that with a stroke of his magic pen--if he wanted to. But that might require him to actually engage in the crisis. Fat chance! SMH.

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  • Rick WoodJuly 18, 2014 - 5:55 pm

    Mr.S: Is "the best we can" equal to "properly?"

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  • Mr. SmithJuly 18, 2014 - 6:15 pm

    Rick: Are you implying that the Obama administration is not doing the "best it can" to treat these uninvited illegal aliens properly until they can be dealt with? Or if "the best it can" is improper treatment, what more should our president and his people be doing to make it "proper?" It is the federal government, after all, that is in the driver seat. Of course, when you "lead from behind" a la Obama, you do need some very long arms to reach the steering wheel and pedals. Oh, and a break from your fund raising schedule.

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  • Rick WoodJuly 18, 2014 - 9:07 pm

    Mr.S: I'm sure there's something in the $3.7 billion request to make it proper. Check to congress, not the president.

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  • Rick WoodJuly 18, 2014 - 6:04 pm

    Mr.S: Obviously, Obama is not willing, yet, to take this monkey on his back. The law, as written must be better, in his opinion, than any alternative available to him. If we want to speed the process up, congress is going to have to provide the resources or a new law. I'm fine with the law as it is. Pelosi wants it also to apply to Mexicans and Canadians.

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  • Mr. SmithJuly 18, 2014 - 6:52 pm

    Rick: If you are "fine with the law as it is," then you are ok with the 60,000 and counting illegal aliens that continue to flood into our country having a full-blown deportation hearing before they can be sent home. That is the most head-in-the-sand, in-your-face-in-spite-of-the-obvious, liberal stance on an issue that has so much potential to harm this country now and for years to come that I have seen on this board. SMH even more than before!

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  • Rick WoodJuly 18, 2014 - 9:12 pm

    Mr.S: Once you recover from the shock of this "invasion" you may see that I was right. You seem to have a high fear response to change.

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  • Mr. SmithJuly 18, 2014 - 9:25 pm

    Rick: And you seem to be living in Obama's "tranquil world," where shooting pool, having a beer and a burger and hitting the fund raising circuit pass for presidential leadership while things are actually going to H E Double Hockey Sticks all around him.

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  • Rick WoodJuly 18, 2014 - 9:46 pm

    Mr.S: Don't blame Obama for not assuaging your fears. He should do what's right.

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  • Mr. SmithJuly 19, 2014 - 8:01 am

    Rick: I couldn't agree more. He should resign forthwith.

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  • clancyJuly 18, 2014 - 2:31 pm

    I font know exactly what Obama is but he's way too left for me sorry I voted for him he turned me way yo the right I think due process is a right of american citizens not people here illegally! Why do the citizens have to pay for their lawyers or hearings or anything for that matter. Can anyone name one other country that would do so?

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  • clancyJuly 18, 2014 - 2:42 pm

    If Obama wants them here do bad why doesn't he let them come stay with his family ? They could become friends with Shasha and Malia. Bet he would love that. I'm tired of all these rich liberals promoting immigration when none of the immigrants will not live anywhere close to their neighborhood! Maybe they need some nannies and maids. In our town we have seen what happens with the illegals gangs shootings homes with too many people living there for the size of the home and on and on

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  • DanielJuly 18, 2014 - 5:54 pm

    CD so I take you're saying that none of the S. American parents want their unaccompanied children as young as 4 back so American citizens are obligated to raise them, if a parent wants them back, ship them back (read your last post, it's your rational in the Gonzalez case) as far as the marine, the Mexican government has charged him without a trial of trespassing without permission, present your evidence if you have facts contrary. It looks like no matter how irrational you're going to defend Obama no matter what he does, you're amazing in your partisanship.

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  • CD BrooksJuly 18, 2014 - 6:17 pm

    Daniel, zero dude, where's YOUR evidence about your posts the other day? ALL those kids need to go home, read MY previous post on the matter. My point was you ridicule the Marines case but believe everybody else is guilty with nothing. Zero.

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  • just sayin'July 18, 2014 - 8:26 pm

    They came in via Mexico, send them back to Mexico. NO ANCHOR BABIES. Deport them all. NOW. This is not a case of children needing help. This is an invasion. Schools here are closing. Teachers get Pink Slips yet we are supposed to educate the rest of the world? NO> NO> NO>

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