Helping Central American kids is a humanitarian, not political, issue
Despite the rhetoric spewing from both ends of the political spectrum, most of the world’s problems have complex origins and resist easy solutions. Consider, for instance, the intractable conflicts in Gaza and Ukraine that reignited this week. While extremists are calling for immediate, unilateral action, more sensible global leaders are treading carefully amid the missiles and burning debris to try to negotiate with all sides — Russians and Ukrainian separatists, Israelis and Palestinian nationalists. Unfortunately, the processes are excruciatingly slow and so far there doesn’t appear to be any promise of peace.
But on another complicated front, the United States, and individual communities within, have the opportunity to take bold action that does not include the risk of inciting further violence and can only help to save lives.
Approximately 50,000 children who have fled countries in Central America have become a political football. Their plight is currently being batted back and forth at the federal level between entrenched Republican and Democratic factions. In the meantime, they are housed in inadequate temporary facilities and, in some cases, have been subjected to violent harassment by authorities who believe they should be deported immediately.
Resistance to helping those children runs counter to the American spirit. While leaders debate over the appropriate response to the conflagrations in Ukraine and Gaza, these children seeking safe harbor in the United States can not be ignored.
President Barack Obama has asked Congress for $3.7 billion in emergency funding to deal with the crisis, including offering services to those individuals where it is determined that it is unsafe for them to return to their native countries. At least one community, Denver, Colorado, has already declared it is willing to step forward to participate in that effort.
According to The Denver Post, the Denver Department of Human Services is already equipped to handle refugees and with support from the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement could house a few dozen of those children currently in limbo. Utah cities should follow suit.
Instead of continuing to bicker over immigration reform, border security and visa quotas, American citizens and their elected leaders should quickly move to approve Obama’s funding proposal. Then communities around the country including ours should scour their human resource agencies, churches and nonprofits and with help from federal grants could accept a share of the burden.
Today’s crisis is reminiscent of another time, when thousands of refugees fled South Vietnam in small boats only to be refused asylum all over the world. In 1980, two of those children found a home in Park City and over the years, they enriched our community with their resilience, their gratitude and ultimately their success. Surely there is room in our prosperous country to open our doors once again.