by Brian T. Lynch, MSW
It is It was Father’s Day and I was still haunted by story I hear about earlier this week. Over 70,000 children a year are coming across the US border from places like Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Mexico, many of whom are unaccompanied minors. The United States is forced to house these children in temporary detention facilities under very difficult conditions. The situation is desperate as federal agencies and facilities designed to house adults races to accommodate the special needs of young children.
On All In with Chris Hayes, José Diaz Balart reported about the humanitarian crisis at the US Mexican border. Unaccompanied minors are crossing the border in record numbers, sometimes as many as 300 a day. Some of these children are as young as 18 months old. But also, there are couples trying to cross the border with their children who are being met by members of Mexico’s drug cartel that take one of the parents hostages for ransom, allowing the other parent and children to cross into the States.
Balart also reported on the conditions that are creating these developments. One Guatemalan mother told him gang violence in her country is so bad that when their daughters reach puberty, gang members will come in and either rape them, kill them, or take them as their property. These parents feel they have no option but to send their children across the border to safety. When US officials try to interview young children to learn who their parents are it is not unusual for 4 and 5 years to not know their parents names or the name of the towns in which they lived. In some cases, trying to reunite children with their families is impossible.
While we flounder around once again in Iraq and other foreign lands with oil resources of interest, we are ignoring the deteriorating humanitarian situations in our own hemisphere. The immigration issues we face are usually couched in protectionist language when the root of the problem is really about promoting growth and stability in foreign countries much closer to home.
We need to direct more resources and attention on foreign aid and international diplomacy among our Latin American neighbors. The social and economic conditions in these countries have reach a crisis proportions. Our immigration problem is a massive refugee problem that our politics and the media isn’t addressing. The answers to real immigration reform fall well beyond the scope of our current political dialogue.