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Mike Littwin

"The pump don't work 'cause the vandals took the handles."

Littwin: A humanitarian crisis that brings out the worst-in us

Rushing to send children back to violence

Littwin: A humanitarian crisis that brings out the worst-in us

 

There is a rush to send the children back. That’s the message we get from Washington.

There are 50,000 unaccompanied minors at the border now. The number may grow to as many as 90,000 by year’s end. It doesn’t seem to matter so much why they came here, just so long as they go.

We hear stories. We hear awful stories. Stories of rape and murder and even dismemberment. There is the now famously sad quote from the young boy to the Women’s Refugee Commission:
“In El Salvador, there is a wrong — it is being young. It is better to be old.”

The young are being targeted. They are forced to join gangs or they refuse to join gangs. It’s hard to know which is more dangerous. Young girls are taken and raped or worse.

And yet, what seems to matter most in Washington is that the children are dealt with, as quickly as possible. And then go.

We know they have come, in the main, to escape poor, gang-infested countries with weak, corrupt governments. We know they come from Honduras, which has the highest murder rate in the world, and from El Salvador and Guatemala, which also both rank among the leaders. We hear the stories, and we can’t really doubt they’re true.

It is definitely a true border crisis, but mostly a humanitarian crisis, and one that defies easy solution.

Some children come on their own, risking everything, often seeking a parent who has already made the trip. If their desperate parents in Central America have sent them, the voyage costs a year’s pay or more, which goes to the coyotes, who sometimes pass the children off to the Mexican drug cartels. The children come, and many are abused along the way and some even die. They come and when they cross the border, they turn themselves in to the nearest Border Patrol agent and hope for the best.

That’s not exactly an invasion, as some would call it. But what exactly is it, other than repeated tragedy?

The United Nations High Commission on Refugees released a study in which it interviewed 404 of the children, and 58 percent said they were fleeing violence. They flee just as refugees flee in Syria or Iraq or from any war zone. The numbers tell the story. The children who arrive in the United States – and in other countries in the region, too — come from cities where the violence is the most serious.

If the children reach America as refugees, they get a hearing. That’s part of the lure. But the law is different for Mexican (and Canadian) children, who can be sent home immediately if they can’t show they are endangered. And what we hear from many in Washington is that we need to change the laws so that children from Central America are treated the same way – quick hearings and quick work. Barack Obama is asking for $3.7 billion to get the necessary resources to the border, but the money, you can bet, will come with strings.

No one seriously doubts the level of violence or lawlessness. Statistics gathered by Vox say that civilians are twice as likely to be killed in those three countries today than Iraqi civilians were at the worst moments of the Iraq war.

And so you’d think, whatever else we do, our first priority would be to make sure the children were safe, to make sure that before we send anyone back, we know we are not sending them to their deaths.

We are a generous people. We care about children in far-away lands, kidnapped children with hashtags to know them by. But these children who have crossed our border are somehow seen differently. They’ve crossed our border illegally, and so they must go back.

To think otherwise, writes conservative wise man Charles Krauthammer, is “nonsense.” There has always been violence and poverty in Central America, he said. Why should now be different?

It’s hard to know what to make of this, other than a willful refusal to look. A story in the New York Times tells of 60 bodies stacked in a morgue, one night’s work in the violent streets of San Pedro Sula, Honduras. The story goes on to say that 2,200 children who crossed the border from January through May came from San Pedro Sula.

Still, in Washington the response – or at least the loudest response — comes with pointed fingers, most of them pointed at Obama for slowing deportations of so-called Dreamers. It’s an awful sight: in the face of a real crisis, not a fake Washington crisis, there are politicians waving the flag of dysfunction for the world to see.

Obviously, we have to do better. Yes, the issue is complicated. It’s complicated because we don’t want children making this dangerous trip. And it’s complicated by the politics of immigration, which rarely brings out the best in us and sometimes the worst — like those California protesters yelling at a busload of kids. But this is a humanitarian crisis, and these are children, and something must be done.

David Gergen — who wrote a piece for CNN comparing this crisis to a time 75 years ago when America turned away German Jews fleeing the Holocaust – suggests that we set up safe zones in Central America, where we can send the children back and ensure their safety. Others have proposed setting up places in Central America where people can seek asylum without the risk of leaving the country.

And then there are those who would tell desperate children that the only crisis is that they came here at all.

[Photo of buildings in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, by bergistheword via Flickr]

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About the Author

Mike Littwin

He has covered Dr. J, four presidential inaugurations, six national conventions and countless brain-numbing speeches in the New Hampshire and Iowa snow.
mlittwin@coloradoindependent.com | Twitter @mike_littwin

8 Comments

  1. Marlin W. Burke on said:

    There is a part of this story that nobody is telling: The U.S. government financed revolutions in Central American countries during the cold war and the Reagan administrations. The mess created refugees to whom we gave a special “temporary protected status.” This allowed people fleeing the wars we were financing to stay in the U.S. and work legally but have no other rights, a right to permanent residence, citizenship or even the right to convert Their status to some other more permanent status. When refugees came , some with their children, we did what we always do with new immigrants. We let them in the country but offered no assistance with assimilation. They were on their own. Kids in the big cities were outsiders with no future. They got into gangs. After that followed criminal activity and prison where we again did what we always do. We warehoused them until their sentences were served, offering no rehabilitation. They learned what prisoners all to often learn in prison, how to be better criminals. When they got out we deported them back to where they came from. They took with them, their cell phones, their networks and the organizational skills they learned while here. They organized gangs which are now so powerful that they rival their national governments and are financed by their networks of drug trafficking and other criminal activity that reach into L.A., Chicago, New York and other big U.S. cities. Now, children in large numbers are fleeing to our borders to escape those gangs. The sad and sickening stories are well known.

    While we argue about what to do with these children, we would do well to take a long, hard look in the mirror.

  2. Dave on said:

    This is the problem with progressives. They want to save the world at the expense of everyone else. The world isn’t a fair place. People get hurt, are poor, are hungry. We can’t save humanity nor should we try. This crisis is one Obama created. He is the worst President in the modern era and a horrible leader. Comparing this crisis to anything other than itself is futile. This isn’t a holocaust.

  3. Don Lopez on said:

    Congratulations, Mr. Littwin.

    Once again, RealClearPolitics.com has republished his column and the response by readers of that website has been overwhelming: 176 comments so far, compared to only three on the Colorado Independent website.

    RealClearPolitics.com regularly publishes columns by such distinguished and popular columnists as Dr. Charles Krauthammer and Dr. George Will. It is indeed an honor for Mr. Littwin’s column to be published alongside columns by those two great thinkers and it represents a huge step forward and upward for his career.

    And, as usual, the comments generated by this column reflect a much wider variety of views then those normally seen on the Colorado Independent.

    I’ve included the link to those comments for those interested in seeing how Mr. Littwin’s views are received by a wider and more diverse audience.

    Enjoy!

    http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2014/07/16/a_humanitarian_crisis_that_brings_out_the_worst_in_us_123330-comments.html#disqus_thread

    http://www.woundedwarriorproject.org

    Veterans Day – November 11, 2014

  4. Don Lopez on said:

    Congratulations, Mr. Littwin.

    Once again, RealClearPolitics.com has republished his column and the response by readers of that website has been overwhelming: 176 comments generated so far, compared to only 3 on the Colorado Independent website.

    RealClearPolitics.com regularly publishes columns by such distinguished and respected columnists as Dr. Charles Krauthammer and Dr. George Will. Having his column appear alongside such great thinkers represents a huge step forward and upward for Mr. Littwin’s career.

    It also represents an opportunity to see how Mr. Littwin’s views are received by a larger, wider and more diverse audience.

    Here’s a very small sample:

    sportsmedicine
    Hey Mike, you know what else brings the worst to this country – liberal policy.

    You speak of compassion for these kids, yet you completely ignore why its happening, or why it was caused.
    You say ” It doesn’t seem to matter so much why they came here”

    Yes it does. It matters a lot, because those reasons put the blame right at the feet of your liberal savior, Barack Obama.
    Had we kept a strong border, had we NOT started this drive for giving so called Dreamers amnesty, the parents of these kids would not have been incentivised to send their kids here. Just the mere amnesty rhetoric pushed by Obama and the Democrats have given these people the idea, and their probably right, that they could easily cross the border and be allowed to stay.

    This situation has zero comparison to Jews fleeing the Nazi’s. It is the DIRECT RESULT of rhetoric coming from our own President.
    Those of us that work our asses off every day have a hard enough time taking care of our own families. to give children of other families who dump their kids on us free food, healthcare, and education is just a bit hard to take.

    They need to go, and you need to stop covering up for the colossal failure of Barack Obama, and his liberal amnesty rhetoric.

    Mike678
    Liberals often have a hard time with critical thinking. It’s just sooo hard to look for the root causes to actually solve the problem rather than address the symptoms.

    Susan Gate
    While providing housing, food, et al for people who shouldn’t be here, the homeless citizens, get crumbs. Where is the compassion Mike?

    strongmind
    excellent post, sums up everything I wanted to say, except in a “nicer,” more eloquent manner. Thank you.

    There are many, many more comments on the RealClearPolitics.com website.

    Enjoy!

    Veterans Day – November 11, 2014

  5. ryecatcher on said:

    More Don Lopez tripe. Mr Lopez is obviously obsessed with RealClearPolitics. His occasional dabbling with CI must be a tax on his time and ego considering he reads distinguished columnists like Krauthammer and Will while coughing up “crap” like the foregoing.

    Dave’s incoherent rant speaks for itself.

  6. ryecatcher on said:

    Mr Lopez for all his obtuse observations and gushing worship of the egotistical Dr’s Will and Krauthammer is amazingly lame when it comes to presenting a sane argument.

    After reading a few of the 180 or so comments posted on RealCearPolitics responding to Mikes column, I found most to be nothing more than anecdotal ranting from the “Obama phobes” of Dave and Don’s ilk.

  7. Don Lopez on said:

    Dorothy,

    What, you didn’t read all 185 comments? I’m sure you could have found one or two you’d agree with.

    OK, maybe just one.

    Here’s one of my favorites—of course, it’s very difficult to pick out just one:

    Bruce Goodman
    Okay, Mike. Show us your compassion. Write a story about how much you and Obama and Pelosi and Reid will donate each month to support these illegal’s in obtaining all the welfare benefits they need to be feed, clothed, educated and healed. How much Mike? We can’t take it out of our tax money because we are already 18 trillion beyond our means. So it all up to you Mike. How much? Give us a compassionate number.

    How many times has one of Mr. Littwin’s columns generated 185 comments on the Colorado Independent website? You’re right, never.

    But here’s a fairer question: Do you think all of the columns combined that Mr. Littwin has written for the Colorado Independent—starting in August, 2013–have generated a total of 185 comments on the CI website?

    I don’t know either but if 185 is the over/under I’m betting under.

    http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2014/07/16/a_humanitarian_crisis_that_brings_out_the_worst_in_us_123330-comments.html#disqus_thread

    http://www.woundedwarriorproject.org

    Veterans Day – November 11, 2014

  8. Don Lopez on said:

    Dorothy,

    What, you didn’t read all 185 comments? I’m sure you could find one or two you’d agree with.

    OK, maybe just one.

    Here’s one of my favorites—of course, it’s very difficult to pick out just one:

    Blake S Davis
    This article is utter nonsense – from a Democrat. He should know that there is no proof that these children are fleeing anything but poverty. And most of the people coming across the border are not children – thanks to Obama who doesn’t allow anyone to look at these people we have no idea.

    So what – we should take in all the world’s impoverished peoples? I mean is it fair that we take in only those who get here?

    The truth is this: the one and only reason this guy wants more immigration is that these people vote Democratic and he is a Democrat. He may as well announce it since his hostility is based on party affiliation, more than anything else.

    The fact that our society can’t withstand this massive influx of immigrants without tearing itself apart means nothing to this guy. And as is usual for hypocrites like this he doesn’t offer to have the people coming over shipped to his community – no, it should be someone else’s problem.

    It is difficult to fathom the monumental foolishness that is part of this columnists world view. The amount of hypocrisy and plain stupidity that it takes to be someone with these views is breathtaking. And, of course, the lies – there is no rush to send anyone back – there should be but there isn’t.

    You cannot have a society on this basis – you just can’t. Maybe it is time to simply divide the country between those who think one way and those who think like this guy – and do it now before people start killing each other. Because sooner or later we will be divided – the Country can’t survive people like this, who are only too happy to reach into the pockets and hearts of fellow citizens, while doing nothing on their own.
    How many times has one of Mr. Littwin’s columns generated 185 comments on the Colorado Independent website? You’re right, never.

    But here’s a fairer question: Do you think all of the columns combined that Mr. Littwin has written for the Colorado Independent—starting in August, 2013–have generated a total of 185 comments?

    I don’t know either but if 185 is the over/under I’m betting under.

    http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2014/07/16/a_humanitarian_crisis_that_brings_out_the_worst_in_us_123330-comments.html#disqus_thread

    http://www.woundedwarriorproject.org

    Veterans Day – November 11, 2014

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