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Red-Blue America: What should US do about illegal immigrant children?

As a nation of immigrants, we must welcome these children to their new home

There is not a single good reason the United States — a nation built by immigrants — should not welcome and embrace the thousands of young children appearing on our border. We should do everything we can to welcome them, make them safe and install them with families who will help them become part the next great generation of Americans.

Consider the traditional arguments against illegal immigration: These youngsters aren’t here to compete for jobs, so they’re not going to drive down wages or take employment away from current citizens. Assimilation won’t be a problem, because they’re arriving young enough for America to make Americans out of them.

And the idea that we should turn them away simply because they’re here illegally? That illegality is a choice we’ve made, and not necessarily for good reasons. We can unmake it for better reasons. Otherwise, the argument is a tautology in the service of cruelty.

Which leaves one possible good argument against allowing all those youngsters in the United States: They will cost the country an enormous amount of money spent on care and services that we should be spending on American citizens instead.

Maybe. But we’re already spending a lot of that money keeping those children in camps, behind fences, as they wait their turn to go through a bureaucracy. We can make that money work for America’s future, or we can toss it down a rathole as we turn away youngsters who need what we can offer and who can pay us back through public service and a revitalized economy for decades to come.

For decades to come, America will be judged for how it treats these children — children! — who have fled evil and deprivation in their own lands. If we truly are as an exceptional a country as we tell ourselves, we will become amazing hosts to them. They deserve our love, our generosity and our willingness not to be as stupid and hard-hearted as our politics sometimes make us. It’s time to welcome these children to their new home.

Joel Mathis ( is associate editor for Philadelphia Magazine.

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