For those that were around an American television in the year 2000, it’s quite possible you remember the name Elian Gonzalez… a little boy from Cuba that was the center of a massive international custody fight. He originally came to the US by boat and his mother actually died en route to get to Florida. When the six year-old Elian arrived here, he was greeted by a group of angry protesters that told him to turn around and go back to where he came from.
If you remember the story, you’ll also remember that the above is incorrect. Because Elian was from Cuba (and yes, in part because his story made national news), he was not treated the way that so many undocumented people entering the United States have been treated. Instead, the United States treated him as a refugee from the malicious Cuban government, and he was taken to family members in Florida. Elian resided in the country all the way through a vicious court battle which eventually had him sent back to his native land (In case you’re curious, Elian Gonzalez is now all grown up and a faithful devotee of Fidel Castro).
This illustrates one sad truth of the United States immigration system… it’s completely unfair. Elian, like many undocumented Cubans that have ventured to this country before him, was deemed a refugee thanks to the shaky relations between the two governments. He was not locked away in a holding cell, and he was not met by screams from protesters. But for the undocumented children on U.S. soil today, that’s exactly what they have faced. As Houston Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee said this weekend, we should not be berating people simply trying to flee from danger. Here’s more from the Houston Chronicle…
U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee on Sunday called upon charitable and faith organizations to help the tens of thousands of unaccompanied Central American children who are pouring across the Texas border.
The Houston Democrat said a federal emergency should be declared to handle what she called a humanitarian crisis.
“These unaccompanied children are not America’s enemy,” said Jackson Lee, who spent three days touring detention centers turned into makeshift shelters that are overflowing with children in the Rio Grande Valley.
“It would not be humane to put these children on planes and buses to ship them back. They could be killed by the cartels and gangs at home. They are not a security threat to us,” Jackson Lee said. “What mother would not send their children here if they were told they had to join the gang or be shot to death?”
The congresswoman told of seeing “frightened children who just want to be comforted” at the shelters, stressing America has always received those who fled persecution.
Her comments come against a backdrop of rising tension this week in places like Murrieta, Calif., where protesters turned away three busloads of immigrants that rolled into their town. Efforts to set up a detention center there were thwarted, and the undocumented immigrants were relocated to San Diego.
As Jackson Lee states, this is a humanitarian crisis, not a national security threat. Many of these children and families are fleeing unspeakable crimes in their homeland, including massive gang violence, murder and rape.
In a recent article, Diane Washington Valdez of the El Paso Times reported just how pervasive child sex trafficking is in the neighboring city of Juarez, Mexico…
Juárez is one of the Mexican cities where child-sex tourism persists, according to a U.S. State Department report on international human trafficking released Friday in Washington, D.C.
“Child sex tourism persists in Mexico, especially in tourist areas such as Acapulco, Puerto Vallarta, and Cancun, and in northern border cities such as Tijuana and Ciudad Juárez,” the report said. “Many child sex tourists are from the United States, Canada, and Western Europe, though some are Mexican citizens.”
John Martin, director of Paso Del Norte Center of Hope, which assists human and sex-trafficking victims, said he’s learned from researchers that Anapra is one of four areas in the Juárez region where sex with children is available.
“Reportedly, people can get sex with a child for $5,” Martin said.
For all of those angry protesters demanding children go back to where they came from, are they also ok with them being sold into slavery or used as pawns for a gangland war? Do they want them sent back, even if it means a death sentence??
To those that complain about how the United States cannot afford to care for people fleeing imminent danger, they should also be asking how we can afford tax give-aways to massive corporations, or how we can afford to spend trillions of dollars nation building in Iraq and Afghanistan. Protecting the lives of people within our borders, documented or not, should be a priority over trying to “force Americanization” of places not even in the same hemisphere.
And therein lies another inherent problem with the immigration fight… some that are against comprehensive immigration reform don’t feel that certain lives warrant the same need for protection as others. Here’s what Bud Kennedy of the Ft. Worth Star Telegram had to say regarding a right-wing Facebook page…
if you read the “Protect” delegates’ convention Facebook page, they reprinted this Thursday from a California restrictionist group protesting at Murrieta, Calif.:
“Americans are not breeding while ‘the bronze master race is.’ … We will die out and they will win.”
There you have it. A major Texas Republican faction that just successfully rewrote the platform is publishing warnings about Central American child detainees arriving as part of an “agenda” for a “bronze master race.”
It’s not about legal or illegal. It’s about bronze.
The Protect page has 932 followers, including several Tarrant County Republican precinct chairs and party officers. It does not identify an author, editor or administrator.
According to the Protect Texas page, at least some of those protesting the children in Murrieta are concerned about much more than just what papers they possess. Sounds familiar to a previous post discussing the unspoken fears that many on the right have about America’s future. At least they used to be unspoken.
No matter what one’s political views, we should all feel ashamed that innocent children would be treated with such disdain. Whether they have 50 press cameras on them like Elian or zero, these children are in need right now, and the least we can do is help them.
(photo credit: KTLA)