As thousands of Central and Latin Americans come flooding into the United States, the attention of America is becoming more and more fixated on three simple questions: Why did this happen? Who is to blame? And, what is the best solution? As a conservative and a lifelong Republican I have watched as all around me many of my friends on the right seem to be jumbling the answers to these questions into one. Certainly a political, legal, and practical crisis confronts America’s political leaders. But, there is another crisis confronting the American people: A crisis of conscience.
It’s easy to look past the face of the one and see only the multitude. Among them we have reason to believe are some very dangerous people from some nefarious organized crime gangs operating in Central America and Mexico. There are also many adults and families who have no criminal background seeking better opportunity, but who are knowingly breaking the laws of the United States with impunity. If those were the only two groups of people in the mix this would be a much simpler problem. There is, however a third group of people among them. A large number of these illegal immigrants are in fact what are being called “unaccompanied minors”. In other words, “innocent children caught up in a storm of rhetoric they don’t understand between adults that will determine the course of the rest of their lives.” As Americans we have a long history of not treating children and adults as equals under the law. We accept as self evident that children lack the mental capacity and maturity to make independent decisions. So when a parent makes their child an accomplice to a crime that the child does not understand we prosecute the parent and seek to place the child in a safer environment.
As a conservative I am appalled to hear many people who I respect suggesting that we simply take children separated from their families to the border and “drop them off” on the Mexico side. Mexico is a country living in the grip of fear as heavily armed organized criminal organizations gain tighter and tighter control of the country. The reason our Northern Border is so different is because evil thugs with machine guns are running around in Latin and Central America terrorizing the police as well as the citizenry. Is it reasonable to think that these children would be simply returned to their families? Some of these children may not even be from Mexico but from countries even further south. Their parents are not just waiting at the border for them to be dropped off.
We can debate what level of accountability our leaders should be held to for their culpability in creating this maelstrom. The power is in our hands, if we choose to, to “fire” the government by replacing the House of Representatives and a third of the Senate in a few months and to demand impeachment proceedings. We can ask candidates for congress how they would secure the border and deal with the immigration reform issue before we vote. We can determine together whether to create “a path to citizenship” or a “ticket home” for the adults and families who are here illegally. We can choose to do none of those things. In other words, we can hold the grownups accountable for their actions as we, the voters, see fit according to the rule of law like civilized people do.
What we must not do is allow anger and frustration with this untenable situation to cause us not to see the tear-stained faces of terrified little kids whose parents sent them away. “It’s not our problem” is not good enough for this conservative. It is precisely such moments of crisis that truly define a nation. It is in the crucible of history’s highlights that the character of a people is refined and revealed. God and posterity will judge the heart of this Republic by how we conduct ourselves in the times that try our souls. We are not faced with the question, “who’s responsible for these children”. We are faced with the question “who are we”?
GE Cummings, Shelton, WA
July 10, 2014