The Response of Too Many Americans to Kids' Fleeing Violence in Central America Has Been Ugliness and Hysteria | News | Phoenix | Phoenix New Times | The Leading Independent News Source in Phoenix, Arizona


The Response of Too Many Americans to Kids' Fleeing Violence in Central America Has Been Ugliness and Hysteria

A sort of moral sickness has gripped this country in the face of the unprecedented number of minors crossing the border in Texas, one that manifests itself in panic, falsehoods, sheer stupidity, and knee-jerk nativist hatred. In Lawrenceville, Virgina (population 1,300), residents recently pitched a fit when they found out...
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A sort of moral sickness has gripped this country in the face of the unprecedented number of minors crossing the border in Texas, one that manifests itself in panic, falsehoods, sheer stupidity, and knee-jerk nativist hatred.

In Lawrenceville, Virgina (population 1,300), residents recently pitched a fit when they found out the federal government contracted with a small, shuttered college there to house 500 of the more than 47,000 migrant kids who have been taken into custody by the feds since October.

Never mind that the plan would have pumped much-needed revenue into the town, the residents didn't want any of them dang "illegals" housed nearby their homesteads, so the feds scuttled the plan.

I'll remember this should some disaster ever befall that burg so I have an excuse not to contribute to the relief effort.

Some militia crazies and other extremists are threatening to man the Texas-Mexican border to repeal the, um, "invasion" of moms, dads, and children fleeing violence and disorder in places such as El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala.

Another Bundy Ranch in the making? Who knows? Sometimes this online wingnut chest-thumping manifests itself in reality. I'm guessing it's only a matter of time before some wack-job hurts a migrant child with his constitutionally protected AR-15 semi-automatic rifle.

I say that because I'm beginning to receive e-mails like I did during the height of the Arizona Senate Bill 1070 insanity in 2010, spinning the dark fantasies of their authors.

I debated one guy back and forth via e-mail until he proffered that violence would be appropriate.

Even toward migrant children, I wondered?

"Yes, to defend my border, I will shoot everything in sight," said this troglodyte.

Hey, as long as you start with yourself . . .

Right-wing outlets proffer wild conspiracy theories, maintaining that the surge in unaccompanied minors crossing the border was engineered by President Obama as a means to pass long-stalled immigration reform.

Which has got to be one of the singularly dumbest things I've ever read or heard. The current crisis has been no boon to the pro-immigrant movement, that's for sure.

It also did not take place overnight.

Earlier this year, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees issued a report on the phenomenon titled Children on the Run, which noted an increase in asylum seekers "both children and adults," since 2009. The current "surge" in the number of "unaccompanied and separated children" from Central America dates to October 2011, according to the report, which relies in part on statistics from the U.S. government.

The UNHCR study interviewed 404 displaced children, about 100 from each of the Central American Countries involved (including Mexico), who "arrived to the U.S. during or after October 2011."

It found that 58 percent of the 404 children may have legitimate claims to asylum, and since the study was designed to be statistically significant, it concludes that 58  percent of these same children still arriving could fall under protections afforded under international law.

One 15-year-old girl, Maritza from El Salvador, told researchers that a gang member had eyes for her, and that another gang member told her uncle to get her out of El Salvador before something bad happened to her.

"In El Salvador, they take young girls, rape them, and throw them in plastic bags," she said. "My uncle told me it wasn't safe to for me to stay there and that I should go to the United States."

A 16-year-old boy from Guatemala related how he escaped getting killed by gangsters there. A 17-year-old from Honduras explained how he feared a gang would shoot him.

Another 17-year-old from El Salvador told of how the M-18 gang killed two police officers assigned to protect his school, as well as two kids he went to school with, and were looking to kill him, until he fled the country.

A report released in November by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops contained similar anecdotes and noted that there were a "series of interrelated factors" driving the current surge, but the main factor was "generalized violence" and a "breakdown in the rule of law."

Yes, there have been reports of rumors and misinformation in these countries that also have primed the pump of the exodus. But why should children in legitimate fear for their lives be sent back to their home countries to die?

International law, U.S. law, and moral law demand otherwise, and yet our politicians seem hell-bent on sending some of these kids back to certain death.

Recently, Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu, once known online by his handle "Studboi1," held a Security Summit attended by several Republican candidates for governor.

Ignoring Babeu's own shady past of threatening his Mexican ex-boyfriend with deportation, these pols proceeded to put the goober into gubernatorial by spouting nonsense on the subject of immigration and the current humanitarian crisis.

Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett, concerning the moms and children dropped off at Phoenix's Greyhound bus terminal by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said he would have ordered the Arizona National Guard or Department of Public Safety to arrest federal officials involved and thereby stop the buses from discharging immigrants already processed by ICE.

This, assuming he were governor, natch.

But as I outlined in last week's column, Arizona officials have zero authority over federal officials lawfully doing their jobs. The federal government decides who can stay in the United States, not Bennett or any other Arizona politician.

Bennett would be ordering false arrests that inevitably would result in lawsuits that would cost the state plenty in payouts.

Both Bennett and fellow goober Christine Jones bandied about a figure of more than $2 billion per year that illegal immigration supposedly costs the state.

But that old canard, produced by the nativist hate organization Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) has been debunked many times by actual immigration experts, who've painstakingly demonstrated that the figure does not account for the economic benefits of immigrants, whether here legally or illegally.

Jones, who subsequently was endorsed by Babeu, also issued a border security plan that she says will cost taxpayers $270 million, despite her wanting to cut taxes and an Arizona budget that faces massive shortfalls in 2016 and 2017.

I asked her spokeswoman, Anna Haberlein, where the $270 million will come from.

"Christine will work with the state Legislature to reprioritize the state budget," she told me.

Uh-huh. If Jones knew anything about "border security," she'd know that the Arizona-Mexico border is more secure than it's been in years, which is why people are crossing the Rio Grande instead of the desert in Arizona.

Two hundred seventy million dollars? Talk about a boondoggle.

But what should we expect from ex-GoDaddy exec Jones when even former U.S. Secretary of State and putative presidential contender Hillary Clinton recently told CNN that the migrant kids "should be sent back as soon as it can be determined who responsible adults in their families are."

Really? As a former Secretary of State, Clinton should be familiar with the concept of non-refoulement, the guarantee under international law that individuals will not be returned to the danger they fled.

U.S. immigration law regarding refugees and asylum-seekers echoes this principle.

Forget the law. Since the Bible supposedly is Hillary's favorite book, perhaps she will recall that line in the New Testament when Christ says that for anyone who hurts a child, it would be better "for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea."

These days, there are not enough millstones to go around.

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