Red-Blue America: What should US do about illegal immigrant children?
We should treat these children humanely, and then send them back to their homes
One of the most reprehensible trends of the past generation is the use and abuse of children as political props. What’s happening along the southern U.S. border may be a humanitarian crisis, but it’s a crisis of our own making. This child abuse needs to stop.
How did this happen? First, President George W. Bush in 2008 signed a law aimed at combating trafficking of children. But the law has had the opposite effect, as families pay thousands of dollars to smugglers to get their children to the border.
The law gave hefty new protections to kids entering the United States alone, as long as they weren’t from Canada or Mexico. It’s no accident that most of the children who have arrived in the past two years are from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
And what makes the past two years so significant? In 2012, then-Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano released a memo claiming “prosecutorial discretion” in exempting nearly 1 million illegal immigrants — all minors — from deportation.
The message was unambiguous: If you’re under 18 and you arrive in the United States alone and in one piece, odds are, you’ll get to stay.
We were once a nation built by immigrants. It’s true. And we need immigrants today. But we also need educated people, people with skills — people with something to give. We do not need tens of thousands of destitute children sent here by their families and abetted by their governments on rumors of free housing, free education and free health care.
“It’s just obvious,” the late, great free-market economist Milton Friedman famously said, “you can’t have free immigration and a welfare state.”
Is our immigration and naturalization system hopelessly broken? No question. Fact is, some 4.5 million people around the world are waiting for their legal opportunity to enter the United States. They’ve done everything the law requires, yet they languish because our bureaucracy is ill-equipped to meet the demand.
Americans are a compassionate people. We should feed these children, shelter them, clothe them and treat the sick as needed. And then we should send them back to their home countries where they belong.
Ben Boychuk (email@example.com) is associate editor of the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal.
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