In the winter of 1938 the passenger ship, MS St. Louis with 937 German Jews fleeing from Hitler’s persecution, was refused entry into Cuba. The ship sailed towards Florida hoping for an executive order from President Roosevelt to lift the limit on German immigrants and allow entry to the USA as refugees. Instead the ship was forced to return to Europe and 25% of the passengers would die in the Holocaust.
Every humanitarian refugee crisis tests America’s moral values. Instead of German Jews fleeing Nazi Germany in 1938, those seeking refugee status today are Central American children trying to escape the narco-trafficking terror in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. This US president has acted to alleviate suffering in the tradition of the message of Lady Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free…” Religious groups like my Catholic Church have taken up the cause of the child refugees. Sadly, instead of uniting the nation behind this moral response with the best of the country’s traditions, the result has been partisan bickering and xenophobic hostilities from Republicans.
Let me be clear: the issue of who is and who is not a refugee in US law has always been a politicized decision. Cubans fleeing Socialism are automatically refugees: Haitians fleeing dictatorship are not. But some situations are so dire as to force moral clarity upon us all. Late in his second term back in 2008, President George W. Bush summoned the Congress to act against human trafficking and they produced the law that President Obama is now implementing. Like existing UN procedures, the 2008 law prevented children from non-contiguous countries being turned away from the US since they would have likely fallen prey to exploitation from prostitution and slavery as on-site deportation would have left them defenseless away from their homelands.
Instead, each child is given a hearing to determine refugee status and potential reunion with their families. After all, the law of “Nature and Nature’s God” tells us children should be raised by their parents. Support for this protection for children was so overwhelming, it was once passed on only a unanimous voice vote. You can almost hear Michelle Bachman pleading, “We have to do this for the CHILDREN!” (The airlift of supplies to Iraq’s refugees in the far-off Sinjar Mountain of embattled Iraq, most of whom are Yazidis and Christians facing genocidal extinction from religious fanatics, deserves a separate analysis since the refugees are not seeking entry to this country.)
Despite the moral clarity of the children’s situation at the border, the right-wing has bombarded us with propaganda and lies like these below.
The border is out of control
The children surrender at the border and 100% of them are put under legal protection. The problem is that because the intake of “illegals” is perfect, it causes an overload in all other systems.
This influx was caused by Obama’s Executive Order for the Dream Act
There are proportionately more refugees to Belize and Costa Rica than to the US. They don’t have a Dream Act, so this myth of blaming Obama is hogwash. Besides, his executive order applies only to those who entered the country BEFORE 2007.
We need to send in the National Guard
The only thing the National Guard has, that the current agencies don’t, is guns. Why are guns necessary? Does Texas Governor Rick Perry want these children shot?
These children are really drug-dealing terrorists
The fear tactic that brands the “other” as evil is right out of the KKK playbook. In fact, these refugees are running AWAY from drug-dealing.
The threat is growing because of the President’s inaction
The president has met with Central American governmental officials and the result has cut in half the flow of children since June. Moreover, thousands have been returned to the countries of origin.
This is Obama’s conspiracy to outnumber American voters with Latino illegals
This line of paranoia explains why Latinos/as are shunning the GOP: it’s hate talk.
Those who attack the moral response to the humanitarian issue of the Central American child refugees are denying our legacy of American exceptionalism.