The alternate title for this posting could be “Poor People Love Their Children, Too.” I also considered “Happy Birthday, Nation of Immigrants.” By now it should be clear that I am writing about the current immigration crisis of children being detained at the border as they seek to enter the United States. NPR has been running some terrific stories about the problem. And they have lingered in my mind. If you’d like them to linger in your mind, you can find them here.
My day is filled with the needs of children. They are well-loved children who are safe and secure, which is a very lucky thing. The challenges in my world are most often in terms of their parents who, like parents everywhere, worry about their kids. The Latin and South American parents who are sending their children on an unknown journey north in pursuit of the elusive American dream are sending their children because they worry about their children’s safety, security, and ability to eat. These are basic needs. Concerns about them can cause reasonable people to take risks that the rest of us find unthinkable. There is no way that I would send my 14 year old on a harrowing 1500 mile journey to sneak across the border. Of course, I don’t have to do that to keep him safe and nourished. The fact that other people do have that worry makes me terribly sad. That they live in our world, let alone our hemisphere, makes it my responsibility.
That responsibility is complicated by the fact that I live in the United States, a nation of immigrants. The privilege of being an American is not one that I earned; it’s an accident of my birth. I respect the fact that good luck that put me in this situation and I believe I should pay it forward. I expect my government to do right by the children we find at our borders. As I see it, we have two options: send them back to safe homes or keep them here. Sending these children back to safe homes means helping the governments in places like Guatemala and El Salvador to keep their citizens safe; it means ending government corruption and finding a way forward for the citizenry’s basic needs. If we can’t (or won’t) do that, then these children should become ours. We should keep them safe, nourish their bodies and minds, and find a way to take them into the homes, churches, schools and communities of their relatives in our nation. If they don’t have those resources, we should share ours.
I realize that neither of these solutions is easy. I understand the complexities of opening our nation to strangers. But, after all, as a nation of immigrants from all over, we have always been a nation of strangers. And with that status, we have fostered some powerful ideas (the Declaration of Independence is a big deal, a fact we acknowledge every year on July 4). We have done some powerful things (the World War II victory comes to mind).
There are children at our doorstep and they need us. Let’s show them the basic humanity that we would extend to a stranger on our own front porches. Let’s do right by these young immigrants and fulfill the promise of freedom and justice for all.