Thursday, July 10, 2014

A photo op is not what is needed

It isn't so often that I find myself disagreeing with Joan Walsh of Salon.com, but this is one of those times.

Walsh wrote a column on Wednesday in which she agreed with all those politicians who are castigating the president because he did not plan to make a visit to the border while he is in Texas to see the thousands of immigrants detained there. Her argument was that such a visit would illustrate the complexity of the humanitarian and immigration crisis like nothing else. She's wrong.

We don't need the president in a photo op with desperate children to illustrate the complexity of the problem. All that would do would be to provide a media circus for the 24-hour news cycle. It would not get any closer to solving the problem.

The complexity of the problem is self-evident. It is a product of chaotic conditions in Central American countries, conditions in which the United States with its appetite for cocaine from the region is clearly complicit. And then, of course, there is the fact that this country actively contributed during the Reagan years to the destabilization of the region. So, we do bear some responsibility here. Even acknowledging that, however, really gets us no further along. We need to solve the immediate crisis and then we need to institute a humane and reasonable immigration policy.

The immediate problem is a need for decent, sanitary housing for these children and women - and they are mostly children and women - and sufficient adjudicators to hear their cases in a timely manner to determine whether they qualify for refugee status or they need to be returned to their countries of origin. And if they should be returned to their own countries, then we need a swift process for accomplishing that.

All of that, of course, requires money, and the only way that money can be provided is for Congress to appropriate it. But, frankly, Congress would rather yell at the president than get off its collective ass to do its job and help solve the problem.

Meanwhile, President Obama gets it from both sides. From advocates for immigrants, he gets criticism because he has deported more people than any president in history.  (Not a fact that viewers of Fox News know, of course.) He has also increased numbers of Border Patrol agents to the highest level ever. Whenever I hear people complaining about the border not being secure, I wonder what border are they talking about? Anyone who has actually been to the border between Mexico and Texas in recent years, as I have, knows that it has more police per square foot than just about any place on the planet. If you are driving or walking anywhere near the border, you can't go ten minutes without encountering a Border Patrol agent. Still, all the right wingnuts scream about our "porous border" and a president who won't enforce the immigration laws. They don't know what they are talking about. They don't want to know.

So, the president is criticized from both the right and the left on this issue. One thing is clear. If he visited the border for a photo op, that would not stop the criticism. More importantly, it would not solve the problem. For that the president needs the cooperation of Congress. Unfortunately for us and for those desperate people waiting at our borders, I don't think he will get it.

2 comments:

  1. I thought this was interesting: http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/immigration-is-changing-much-more-than-the-immigration-debate/

    The thing that irritates me more than any other is that if this was happening anywhere else in the world, it would be a 'refugee crisis', or a 'humanitarian crisis'. Here it's a 'tidal wave of illegal immigrants'. It's children! What kind of situation would you have to be in that would be bad enough to make you send your child away, alone, to a foreign country, where they didn't speak the language and hope that the people there would have enough compassion to treat them like more than prisoners. Americans seem to be lacking in the compassion department lately, despite all the posturing by religious groups and Congress.

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    1. There are actually people - religious groups and political entities, some of them here in Texas - that are responding with compassion and trying to help. Unfortunately, as too often happens, their voices are drowned out by the haters, like the group of people in Murrieta, California who got together to scream and spit at the buses carrying children. You are absolutely right that it is a humanitarian crisis. It deserves a humane solution.

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