By Tom McDonald
No doubt about it. Our great debate over immigration has an emotional side to it. And this time we’re talking about children — more than 50,000 of them and growing — who are risking life and limb to make their way into the United States.
No matter how you look at it, they’re victims — children who are neither safe nor secure. They’re pawns in a larger issue, dehumanized by some, but children still. Someone needs to care for them.
Personally, I find it difficult to sympathize with the people who, at a public meeting in Artesia, turned out to voice their objections to the “illegal” women and children being housed there. Throughout my newspaper career, I’ve covered a lot of NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) protests, but this one is particularly disturbing. Again, we’re talking about children and mothers, so let’s cut ’em some slack.
Still, I’m glad those fellow New Mexicans were more restrained in their objections than their California counterparts who got so aggressive when buses of undocumented women and children arrived in their back yard that federal authorities feared for their safety. They should be ashamed of themselves.
Of course, there’s more to this issue than the humanitarian crisis that President Obama declared it to be. There’s also an antiquated U.S. immigration policy in place, which will remain broken as long as partisanship trumps practicality. The fact is, as long as the U.S. is a land of opportunity, people are going to sneak in, and unless we have reasonable immigration policies in place, it will always be an unwieldy mess.
Plus, it’s a racially charged issue.
In 1960, the U.S. was about 85 percent white; by 2010, the nation was about 63 percent white. The projection now is that by 2050 only 47 percent of the U.S. population will be white.
I guess that explains why xenophopia — a fear of foreigners — is so strong among America’s white population, and why so many are adamant about making our southern border secure.
Whatever the reason, there’s no easy solution to this crisis. If we let them stay, more will follow, but if we send them back, more will die.
Meanwhile, the politicians do little more than play the usual blame game. It’s Obama’s fault. No, it’s Congress.
But why don’t we just blame it on the French? They’re the ones who gave us the Statue of Liberty, that beacon for immigrants for more than a century now.
But we can’t blame France for the statue’s inspirational inscription. That was written by Emma Lazarus, an American poet and a daughter of Jewish immigrants:
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free; the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Does that include children?
Tom McDonald is editor of the New Mexico Community News Exchange. Contact him at: