Over the last few months, another issue which has been called by President Obama as “humanitarian crisis” has become a bigger priority for the nation, and that is, the influx of Unaccompanied Children, or UACs. According to the article “White House will ask Congress for New Powers to Tackle Immigration Surge,” “The US border patrol was used to detaining around 7,000 child migrants on the south-west border each year. Since October, at least 52,100 have been caught crossing the border; that number is expected to surpass 60,000 before the end of September. Most have come through the Rio Grande area, on the southernmost tip of Texas, which has seen a 178% increase on last year’s tally of children migrants.” Some are even as young as four or five. These children who mostly come from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras apparently cross into the country for the following reasons: 1) Recent U.S. policies toward unaccompanied children; 2) faltering economies and rising crime and gang activity in Central American countries; 3) the desire for family reunification; 4) changing operations of smuggling networks. By law, after being apprehended by the Border Patrol, they must be turned over within 72 hours to the Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement. Health officials must try to find relatives or other adults in the United States who can care for them while their immigration cases move through the courts, a search that can take several weeks or more. With this latest surge in immigration, the government has opened new shelters and processing facilities all over the nation.
I chose to do this topic because of its present relevance. The question that the United States needs to address now is, “What are we going to do with these unaccompanied children?” As it is, it has revived the debate over an immigration policy overhaul, one of the most partisan issues in the already overheated political climate of an election year, and there seems to be no immediate solution. The border patrols are overwhelmed, the facilities are ill-equipped to handle this mass surge, and Obama administration is being criticized and blamed for it. Being a humanitarian nation that we are, this crisis serves as a test to our nation’s moral conscience- do we, as a humanitarian nation, choose to shelter these orphans- feed them, clothe them, provide medical care and educational opportunities until they become productive US citizens, or do we resort to immediately deporting them if they have no legal basis to stay? Immigrant-rights advocates call this proposed change “unconscionable.” On the other hand, the President’s $3.7 billion request in emergency spending to increase border enforcement, provide care for the children, send aid to their home countries, and seek new authority to deport the children more quickly could dishearten many of his liberal allies (while empowering his Republican foes).
In the meantime that the Border Patrols are doing their best to contain the situation, we, as residents of a bordertown, must ask ourselves, “Which side of the fence are we on?”