The flood of children crossing into the United States at its southern border — some alone and others with their mothers — calls for measures that are humane, pragmatic and creative.
That’s a lot to expect from our dysfunctional political system. Indeed, the response from many in Congress to the White House’s request this week for $3.7 billion to deal with the problem was hardly encouraging.
Carping about President Barack Obama’s “amnesty” policies and accusing his administration of being late to the problem — which it was — won’t solve anything.
Neither will a vast fortification of border security; unaccompanied children are running to patrol officers, not fleeing them.
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Shipping the children immediately back to their crime-ridden, impoverished Central American homelands isn’t an option. A 2008 law forbids it, and we would yield any higher ground in foreign policy with such callousness.
Yet somehow the migration must be stopped. No civilized immigration policy encourages a smuggler’s market with children as the cargo.
The administration’s request for additional funding to relieve stressed customs and border protection agencies is valid, and more money is clearly needed to care for the unaccompanied minors and families who are here. Immigration courts need additional lawyers, judges and caseworkers to more swiftly figure out the status of the migrants and arrive at a plan for them.
For many, that plan will be deportation. But we are not a nation that sends children coldly into harm’s way. Resources are urgently needed for governmental and non-governmental groups here and in Central America to determine why children and families made the dangerous trek north, and whether they can safely return to the same place.
Many of these children are fleeing abuse, conscription into gangs and death threats. They must be relocated to safer areas in their home countries and provided shelter and resources.
The United States must work more closely with Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and other Central American nations to combat criminal syndicates and provide decent educational and employment opportunities for families.
There is no easy or cheap fix to this complex and even astonishing problem. The remedy is multi-faceted and will require patience, resources and diplomacy. The sooner our politicians cease with finger-pointing and get to work, the better.