Take a moment to contemplate the number. 52,000 children, unaccompanied by any adult, have illegally crossed our southern border in recent months. 52,000! That's the population of Port Arthur, Texas, or a sellout crowd at Yankee Stadium. Tens of thousands more are expected to arrive in the coming weeks.
Immigration has usually been something to celebrate. As Neil Diamond put it: "On the boats and on the planes, They're coming to America." But this wave of illegal immigrants is not coming by boats and planes; they're walking or using Jet Skis, usually after a long ride atop a train called "The Beast." And they aren't coming here to take advantage of their skills, since most are too young to even have skills. Instead, they are being shipped north by parents in El Salvador and Honduras and Guatemala.
This is yet another crisis caused by the Obama administration and "compassionate" Democrats. The president long ago decided to stop enforcing immigration laws, while he dangled the alluring promise of amnesty for anyone who could find some way to get here. That less-than-subtle message was relayed by the media in Central America, where many parents are desperate enough to entrust their children to criminal smugglers, quaintly known as coyotes.
Who can blame the parents? We often hear America portrayed as a violent nation where just about everyone is packing heat. Well, our annual murder rate is about 5 killings for every 100,000 people. The murder rate in Honduras is 90 per 100,000, meaning a typical Honduran is eighteen times more likely to be slain than an American. Guatemala and El Salvador also have astronomical rates of violent crime. If you had the chance, wouldn't you send your kids to a place where they are more likely to survive childhood?
But while it's easy to understand the motives of Central Americans, it's far harder to decide just what U.S. authorities should do. The debate breaks down along fairly predictable lines. The uber-liberal New York Times describes the children as "refugees" and demands massive aid. And our own Kirsten Powers actually said this: "I would say every child that comes into this country, we should take care of." Every child? Suppose 200,000 enter illegally? How about 2,000,000?
On the other side of the ideological border, so to speak, are conservatives such as Laura Ingraham, a longtime foe of illegal immigration. "We have to start deporting people," she recently declared. "If you don't deport anyone, you're going to keep getting people coming over the border." Folks like Laura understand that innocent children can not immediately be shipped back from whence they came. But neither can they be allowed to stay forever – not when there is already massive debt, not when low-skilled Americans have enough trouble finding jobs without added competition from illegal immigrants.
What is needed right now is a border that truly and finally secure. Rather than flying children around the country to be warehoused, immigration authorities should be using every tool they have, as well as some they don't yet have, to prevent further border crossings. And if the Border Patrol can't do the job alone, send in the National Guard.
But a militarized border is anathema to President Obama and his friends on the left. Their instinct is have borders that are wide open and a big government that provides for new arrivals, legal or not. Beyond that, more than a few cynics eagerly point out that every illegal immigrant who crosses our southern border is a potential Democratic voter.
Liberals claim that welcoming poor immigrants is humane and Christian, which is true. Accepting poor people fleeing oppressive governments is how America came of age, and compassion for the downtrodden is a hallmark of Judeo-Christian philosophy. But there is also that stubborn thing called reality. Despite what Kirsten Powers and others may wish, we simply cannot support all the world's poor. And since the Obama administration will not control the southern border, the USA is now facing a major crisis. Texas and Arizona are being hammered, they don't have the resources to handle all of these children.
So the USA is now enduring a self-inflicted humanitarian crisis. As a noble and compassionate country, we will take care of the children before ensuring that most of them return to their homelands. More than anything else, we have to gain control of our border. Full control. But there is a nagging fear among many Americans: Securing the border may be an impossible dream as long as Barack Obama occupies the Oval Office.