Of Short Memories
Approximately 1.5 million children died during the Holocaust.
In 1938, just after the German pogrom against the Jews known as Kristallnacht, Great Britain eased its visa requirements to allow children under the age of 17 from Nazi Germany, or from any of its annexed territories, to enter the country on temporary travel visas. From December 2, 1938 until May 14, 1940 between 9,000 to 10,000 children – about 7,500 of them Jewish – were rescued from Germany, Austria, Poland, and Czechoslovakia. This was done even though Great Britain was also experiencing the severe effects of the Great Depression – the value of British exports was halved, industrial output had fallen by a third, unemployment rose to 20% (with some areas reaching 70% unemployment). While some areas of the economy around London still prospered, poverty and unemployment devastated Northern England and Wales; and still they took in 10,000 children in need.
Between 1934 – 1945, in the United States 1,400 mostly Jewish children were rescued from Europe and the Nazi’s atrocities. Why did Great Britain wind up rescuing more than seven times as many children in just 1 and a half years than the United States did in 11 years?
- Great Britain’s program was well known (the Refugee Children’s Movement or kindertransport) and promoted. The American One Thousand Children effort was kept quiet and low key so as not to antagonize the isolationists and anti-Semitists in this country.
- Great Britain loosened the laws on immigration to allow these children to enter and stay. The United States did not, instead maintaining strict quotas even after the events of Kristallnacht made it clear the Nazi’s intentions towards Jews. Legislation was proposed, the Wagner-Rogers Bill, that would have admitted 20,000 Jewish refuges under the age of 14 to enter the United States. It failed to pass.
Guatemala – Due to crime cartels and gangs (often consisting of retired generals and police officers) there are 52 murders per 100,000 people every year. In the United States is it only five per 100,000, and only one per 100,000 for England. In 2009 the number of people shot, beaten, and knifed to death in Guatemala outnumbered Iraqi’s who died in the war zone in Iraq. More than 2/3 of homicides in Guatemala are unsolved. Police are both ineffective and corrupt.
Guatemala also has the fourth highest rate of chronic malnutrition in the world. According to a study by the US based research institute The Fund for Peace, this will get worse.
Gangs in Guatemala force children to join, usually young teens. The average age of those recruited has been going down and as of 2012 was close to 12 years old. Girls are recruited to be “girlfriends” (although last year two girls – age 13 and 15 were arrested for assassinating a 20 year old man). Boys to be soldiers. Even some kindergarteners have been recruited. Schools are often just as much recruiting grounds as educational institutions. Refusal to be recruited often results in beatings at first, and then escalates from there. Extreme poverty also eases the decision, even in the face of unwillingness and fear for what they might have to do.
Honduras – In addition to being the poorest country in Latin America, the Honduras also are region’s most violent and crime ridden. It also has one of the most corrupt police forces in Latin America. Often the political and economic elites of this country are the ones directing the activities of the drug cartels and crime syndicates.
Gangs in Hondura force children to join, usually young teens. The average age of those recruited has been going down and as of 2012 was close to 12 years old. Girls are recruited to be “girlfriends”. Boys to be soldiers. Even some kindergarteners have been recruited. Schools are often just as much recruiting grounds as educational institutions. Refusal to be recruited often results in beatings at first, and then escalates from there. Extreme poverty also eases the decision, even in the face of unwillingness and fear for what they might have to do.
El Salvador – According to the United Nations office on Drugs and crime, El Salvador is one of the most dangerous places in the world, having a homicide rate of 69.2 per 100,000 in 2011. Again, corruption among public officials and police is rampant.
Gangs in El Salvador force children to join, usually young teens. The average age of those recruited has been going down and as of 2012 was close to 12 years old. Girls are recruited to be “girlfriends”. Boys to be soldiers. Even some kindergarteners have been recruited. Schools are often just as much recruiting grounds as educational institutions. Refusal to be recruited often results in beatings at first, and then escalates from there. Extreme poverty also eases the decision, even in the face of unwillingness and fear for what they might have to do.
According to the Border Patrol, 3 out of 4 current unaccompanied children are from the Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador.
In 2008 the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act was voted on and passed by both chambers of Congress without issue or objection. This law was one of the last law signed by President George W. Bush before leaving office. Its purpose was to fight against human trafficking, including sex traffic of children.
Towards that end, any child entering the country alone who was not from Canada or Mexico was to be given the opportunity to appear at an immigration hearing to determine their status. It was also recommended in this law that they have access to counsel. Further, these children were to be turned over to the care of the Department of Health and Human Services, placed “in the least restrictive setting that is in the best interest of the child” and to explore reuniting these children with their family members.
This law was originally pushed by a bipartisan group of lawmakers as well as by evangelical associations concerned with sex trafficking. It passed unanimously.
Health – Despite the rumors, illegal immigrant children pose a very low health risk to the United States. Despite the rumor, they do not have the Ebola virus, which is an African disease and not one found in Latin America. Despite the rumors, dengue is spread by mosquitoes, not people.
What these children do have are illnesses related to long journeys – diarrhea and respiratory illnesses – that do not pose a risk to Americans. In fact, although the U.S. has a 92% vaccination rate for our children, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras have a 93% vaccination rate for theirs. There is no danger of plague being unleashed upon American citizens by these children.
Gangmember Infiltration of US – Yes, there are gangs in the countries these children are fleeing from. That is why they are running after all. And yes, 16 children have been found with links to gangs. Sixteen out of over 50,000. And are these children trying to hook up to gangs here (unlikely) or are they trying to get out of the gangs by moving far away?
Here is a good article from Insight Crime on this.
Nevertheless, it is still possible that some of the youths are active gang members, but this is unlikely to pose a serious security threat to the United States.
Latin street gangs, especially the MS13, already have a presence in the United States and there is ample evidence that they coordinate criminal activities with counterparts in Central America, in particular in El Salvador. Gangs on both sides of the border likely have access to established networks for the movement of arms, drugs, people and money. It is therefore unlikely they would utilize the routes of common migrants, which are arduous, dangerous and risky, for any important gang operations.
The numbers support this; while the US authorities have discovered 16 gang members so far, if Townhall.com’s account is accurate, this is a tiny fraction of the tens of thousands of children crossing the border.
Border Security – If they are being stopped and detained, then we are securing our borders at the entry point. What more would you have them do – shoot on sight? More boots on the ground would not hurt, but that is not the problem. The problem is that we have this massive flood coming in and we ARE stopping them. Now we have to figure out how to handle them after we have stopped them.
Of Illegal Immigrant Children
Today – July 15, 2014 – there are protestors in Tucson Arizona. They are protesting the bussing of 40 immigrant children to a nearby academy for troubled youths. Holding signs reading “Return to sender” “Take them away from here” and “Go home non-Yankees”, they plan to physically block the buses. Just as did:
July 14, 2014. Vassar Michigan. Protestors waving American flags, holding signs, and praying together protested the possible arrival of 120 illegal immigrant children to be temporarily housed there while they receive their vaccinations and basic education before either being re-united with relatives or going into foster care. The process is supposed to take 2-4 weeks. Hence the adjective “temporarily”. Yet even this temporary is seemingly too long.
Today I see too many voices yelling at children. I see too many people displaying hatred to children. Today I see too many Americans following in the mindset of the 1930’s. No, these children are not fleeing a holocaust. But they are fleeing for their lives. Dead is dead whether in a Nazi gas chamber or beaten to death by a syndicate crime soldier. The crisis is the same, the lives of refugee children.
I hear many asking why are these children sent alone. They point out, quite rightly, that it is a long and dangerous journey from El Salvador, from Guatemala, from Honduras. However they and their family know that dangerous as that journey is it is still safer than staying in an impoverished home and being recruited for a gang. Just as the mother of Moses launched him to an uncertain fate in a basket upon the waters of the Nile, so too have these parents launched their children fate in the US, knowing too well what their fate will be should they stay.
SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras — Twelve-year-old Maynor Serrano points to the rows of houses where his friends and neighbors used to live. All are gone — many fleeing to the U.S.
Two of his friends were killed as 10-year-olds, their bodies chopped to pieces in a suspected gang vendetta.
He saw homes reduced to crumbling wrecks, their walls pockmarked with bullet holes. Entire neighborhoods were abandoned in hours — the result of monstrous gang violence.
Some houses became casas locas, crazy homes, for torturing families in this macabre city, which has the highest homicide rate in the world. Daily newspapers are filled with graphic photographs of bodies.
Like many, Maynor Serrano yearns to escape to the U.S., where he has relatives.
“It’s tough to live without hope,” he said. “If it’s not there, you go look for it.”
Some call me a bleeding heart. It is a label that I willingly, proudly, and loudly embrace. After all, for atheists, isn’t empathy for others’ pain, suffering and problems an essential part of what we are? Isn’t this an essential part of why we create societies? Without empathy, without our acting on these impulses, we, eventually, lose what makes us human. Bleeding hearts help set goals that reason and logic then find ways to best achieve.
For the Jews and Christians, I have already mentioned Moses. For Christians, remember also that Joseph and Mary and baby Jesus were refugees too at one time. Remember to love one another. Remember your Bible and Jesus’ words in Matthew 25: 37-40:
“37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
For all those who are religious, isn’t concern for the unfortunate, the poor and suffering, the needy an essential part of your religion? From what I have read, whether Buddhist or Jew, whether Muslim or Sikh, almost all religions require one to help the other, to treat those in need as us and not them.
I am not saying that we should make all of these children citizens. No. What I am saying is that we have a law and a process set up to determine whether these children are refugees and in need of protection and shelter. Fund it so that those organizations set to implement this law and these processes can do their job quickly, efficiently, and effectively. And then if need be, if they would be in danger if returned, then we find homes for them here – just as we have for so many in danger and need, and just as we did not do for the Jewish children.
I am saying that they should have legal counsel during these proceedings to ensure that they do not become merely window dressings for a rubber stamp saying “Go Away”.
I am saying that while here, while waiting for the process to work itself out, they need to receive medical care, food, and a proper place to live.
I am saying that we should not let our bigotry, fear, hatred, uncertainty get the better of us and display our lack of humanity by picketing children and shouting hateful words towards them. They are not the source of your frustration and disagreements. They are merely seeking shelter from a harsh world. Treat them as children in need.
I am saying that we should find solutions that are true to what makes us human.
I am saying that instead of ignoring our bleeding heart, denying its existence, or killing it we should be healing that which causes it to bleed.