Commentary: An Immigration Impasse Lacking in Compassion

The politicians continue to argue and protests persist while tens of thousands of migrant children languish.

Posted: 07/11/2014 04:16 PM EDT
Commentary: An Immigration Impasse Lacking in Compassion

With each passing day, the controversy over the refugees at the southern border of the United States grows more and more outrageous.

It is now at the point that it has degenerated into a shouting match between two branches of government. House Speaker John A. Boehner, taking a short break from his publicity stunt lawsuit against the president, has complained bitterly about the Obama administration’s position in the immigration issue.

“This is a problem of the president’s own making,” Boehner said, in an unusually shrill press conference. “He’s been president for five and a half years. When’s he going to take responsibility for something?”

At the same time, the White House is more than returning the volley, saying rightly that the House of Representatives is doing absolutely nothing to solve the problem of young migrants coming to the border from Central America.

Everyone seems to be aware of the crisis, determined to score political points at any and all costs. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of people – largely young children and mothers – are utterly unattended to. On one hand, they are the victims of wholesale government inaction. On the other hand, they are the object of taunts and scorn of the most vicious sort coming from Americans who seem to have forgotten that their very forbearers, too, came to this country seeking a better life.

But these children are largely from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. They have left their homeland to flee violence of the most shocking variety, from gang carnage to killings at schools and even rape. If this doesn’t constitute a humanitarian crisis, what does? These mothers feel as urgent a need to flee their countries as did Irish families in leaving their homeland during the mass starvation of the famine between 1845 and 1852, conditions that fueled massive emigration from Ireland to the United States.

But the aspiring immigrants from Central America do not bear physical resemblance to the Irish, nor the English, Germans and Italians who were part of the early wave of immigration to the United States of people seeking to improve their lives. And that, alas, is a critical part of the problem. To the screaming, vicious throngs of bitter protesters in Texas and California urging these young people to go back to where they came from, they are wholly undesirable creatures.

For far too many Americans, they are widely viewed not as desperate human beings seeking refuge from unspeakable horrors, but as interlopers seeking to rob honest and decent Americans of their resources. These protesters seem to be unaware that this is a country fueled by immigrants, a land where immigration provides the roar of the economic engine.

The histrionics are especially galling coming from the far right faith community, which purports to hold compassion as one of its central tenets.

Frederick D. Haynes III, senior pastor of the Friendship-West Baptist Church in Dallas, said it best. “That same Christ said how you treat these little children is a reflection of how you are treating me,” Haynes said, on MSNBC. “As a matter of fact, he also went on to say that we have to be careful how we entertain strangers and how we treat foreigners and then don't forget about children.”

These young people should be afforded whatever considerations the law allows and it should be done quickly and compassionately. Above all, politicians, be they in Congress or in the White House, need to remember that these are human beings who deserve far better than they have received so far.

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

Follow Jonathan Hicks on Twitter: @HicksJonathan

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(Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

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