The Norman Transcript

Columns

June 16, 2014

Humanitarian crisis defies all platitudes

NORMAN — Nine months ago, in the Wall Street Journal, a former Bush administration official described the sorry plight of children now streaming northward across the U.S.-Mexico border.

Hundreds of children, mostly from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, are showing up daily, their numbers having increased in recent months as violence and poverty have spiked upward in their home countries. They are overwhelming border patrol stations and raising concerns about health and safety, not to mention the dilemma of locating their parents. The Department of Homeland Security is scrambling, setting up space at military bases in Oklahoma, Texas and California to keep the children until their futures can be decided.

Estimates are that 90,000 children will attempt to cross into the United States this year.

Julie Myers Wood, who co-authored the Journal op-ed with attorney Wendy Young, was head of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement from 2006 to 2008. Young heads Kids in Need of Defense.

The two women raised the alarm about the increasing numbers of children at our border. And they pointed out that in immigration proceedings, nobody — including children — is guaranteed legal representation. That fact can have dire consequences for a child.

“We’ve seen 5-year-old immigrants in front of a U.S. judge, about to be sent back into harm’s way,” they wrote.

Their piece was a thoughtful, nuanced appeal to the conscience of America. “For a nation founded on the principles of due process and access to justice, we are grievously violating both when it comes to deporting undocumented immigrant children,” they argued.

Contrast that to the unbending vitriol on immigration that helped unseat House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.

David Brat defeated Cantor in the Republican primary by running on ignorance and denial. Brat’s vague slogans about “securing” the border and screeds about “amnesty” are familiar bromides by now, the talking points of people who know little about immigration in an attempt to court voters who know even less.

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