Suffer Litttle Children
July 14, 2014 § 2 Comments
“But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven” Matthew 19:14.
For the past few days our TV screens have been filled with pictures of women and children, exhausted, desperate, bewildered, eyes filled with fear, being herded toward cyclone fenced cages or bedded in crowded makeshift dormitories. These are not pictures from Somalia or Sudan. They are scenes in South Texas and California.
Before and after these pictures we have watched officials elected to govern Texas and the United States, commenting on these scenes and the issues they illustrate. There has been little or no evidence of empathy or compassion from these officials. They talk only of the obstacles and barriers slowing down the process of loading these mothers and children on buses or airplanes and shipping them back where they came from.
The obstacles and barriers that confound these officials are familiar ones: The Constitution and federal laws, sources of constant frustration to government officials who are confident they know how best to handle “the situation”, but they are hamstrung by these pesky legal requirements, by which they mean such concepts as “due process” and requirements that children be protected from harm.
In this post I will cite some facts that should inform our reaction to these pictures. I will also express my opinion of what, so far, appears to be the reaction of our governors.
Who Is To Blame?
The Republican Party Response
Instead of arguing about the right response to the migration of these mothers and children, all energy has been spent assessing the blame for that migration. As usual, the prize for most creative reaction goes to the leadership of the Republican Party, notably John Boehner and a hitherto obscure Congressman, Raul Labrador. Raul is a Puerto Rican Morman, raised and schooled in Nevada who, after finishing college in Washington state, settled in Idaho. He has been in Congress for four years, is on the Natural Resources and Judiciary committees; sponsored the absurd “balanced budget bill”; and was chosen by David Gregory as an authority on immigration issues and allowed to spout misinformation on national television in last week’s “Meet the Press” show.
Labrador’s take: Central American violence has nothing to do with recent increase in mothers and children fleeing to the U.S.. He explained that San Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala have long been violent places. The real reason for the recent migration is the President’s decision not to deport “dreamers”. Gregory was too polite to tell the Congressman that the President’s program to stop deporting kids who were brought to the U.S. by their parents does not apply to anyone arriving here now. When Gregory suggested that the Congressman might seem harsh ,”to some people” (certainly not to a seasoned journalist like Gregory, but to “some people”) , Raul was quick with a rejoinder: He assured Gregory and, presumably, those who might consider him a heartless jackass, that packing up those mothers and children and sending them back to Honduras, where the murder rate is the highest in the world, or wherever else they came from, was really doing them a favor. [I’m not making this up. Here is a link: Labrador]
John Boehner’s analysis was not as creative as Labrador’s. He merely repeated the usual GOP slogan: That the “problem” results from Barack Obama’s failure to “secure the border”. The pasting of this bumper sticker on this issue is close to a joke. The mothers and children seeking a safe haven did not sneak across an insecure border. They waded or rode rafts across, looking for a Border Patrolman to offer them shelter and help. They were like a shopper in a department store looking for a clerk.
To summarize: The Republicans are trying to equate the migration of these mothers and children to the “49ers” who heard rumors of a gold strike at Sutter’s Mill; packed up and decamped to California. It will surely strain the credulity of Americans to see this as a sensible reaction to a real problem.
The Democratic Party’s Response
So far, I am not very proud or impressed with the response of my Party. I have seen some evidence that they might join the GOP in repealing the law designed to protect trafficking in children. That law requires a hearing to determine whether a child is entitled to asylum before a decision is made to deport him or her. It does not apply to migrants from countries contiguous to the U.S., like Mexico. It does apply to Central American countries. To the government, speed is more important than the niceties of justice or due process. There aren’t enough trained hearing officers or lawyers knowledgeable about immigration law to handle several thousand hearings. There are published reports of a backlog of 375,000 cases waiting for immigration hearings. And this backlog existed before this latest migration.
A Congressman’s Winding Trail
One Congressman, Henry Cuellar, a Democrat from a District that includes Webb and Hidalgo Counties and stretches north through the brush country to rural towns just east of San Antonio, has joined the GOP chorus blaming Obama for not visiting the border during his recent trip to Texas; seeks the repeal of the child trafficking law; and holds Obama responsible for the present migration problem.
Cuellar was elected to the Texas House of Representatives; resigned after a short time; was appointed to be Secretary of State by Rick Perry; ran for Congress against Willie Bonilla; was defeated; then, after the gerrymandering of congressional districts, ran against Ciro Rodriguez, a liberal Democrat.
The race ended with very few votes separating the two candidates and vigorous claims by Rodriguez that votes had been miscounted. An election contest was filed in Webb County (Laredo). The district judge, sitting by assignment, gutted Rodriguez’ effort to have a full blown trial by striking part of his pleading, denying a motion for a brief delay so that he could marshal evidence of suspicious vote counting, and generally insuring that he would not be able to prove vote fraud. [The judge was Joseph H. Hart, who, so far as I have been able to determine, was and is an honest and conscientious judge. I don’t agree with what I found out about his decision in this case, but I have no evidence that he was or is corrupt.]
On appeal, the San Antonio Court of Appeals, in a split 2 to 1 decision, reversed almost every ruling by Hart and remanded the case for a hearing on the merits. A motion for rehearing en banc was granted and the panel decision was reversed. So Cuellar went to Congress. Since then he has been re-elected with little or no opposition. His voting record on key issues is 100% consistent with the Democratic caucus, but he has an 88% approval rating from the United States Chamber of Commerce.
As I have researched this guy and watched him stab Obama in the back, I began to have a deja vu reaction. Then it hit me: Cuellar is like LBJ: Rick Perry was Cuellar’s Brown & Root. His first defeat by Bonilla was his Lee O’Daniel defeat; followed by LBJ’s Coke Stevenson race; Cuellar’s was with Ciro Rodriguez. Then, after going to Washington, he did what was required to stay out of trouble with the national party, but cozened a smooth path by maintaining his alliance with the Texas GOP and corporate business lobbyists. “Landslide Henry” is a bush-league version of “Landslide Lyndon”.
I don’t know how the maneuvering in Washington will play out. So far, as stated, it appears that morality and compassion will have little to do with it. Everyone’s focus is on the next election and the presidential election after that. Obama would love to use the present crisis to bulldoze a reform of our immigration laws and procedure but the Republicans, paranoid as a result of the Tea Party’s defeat of Eric Cantor, are not likely to permit that result.
It will be interesting to see how Hillary reacts to this issue. I assume her opinion will depend on polling and that now seems uncertain. Letitia Van de Putte has denounced Cuellar’s perfidy. Wendy Davis, so far as I know, has been silent on this entire issue. I hope her advisers are not clinging to the false hope that, by not mentioning controversial issues, she can skate into office with the votes of liberal opponents of Abbot plus those of uninformed voters who will vote for her because she is a blonde woman.
I don’t think that is a winning strategy, but it is an often tried one. The problem with it is that it fails to inspire liberals while not fooling conservatives, whose well financed attack machine will pin controversial labels on her regardless of whether she earns them. It was a very popular strategy in the late fifties and the sixties, when Democratic Party candidates tried to garner black votes without supporting civil rights, thinking they could count on black support because of the blatant racism of their opponents and by including a sentence in their speeches that promised justice to “ALL Texans”. (Get it? ALL means “including blacks”). Don Yarborough was the first serious candidate for governor of Texas who did not play that game. But for the assassination of JFK in 1963, I think he would have become Texas’ governor.
Much of what I have seen on TV for the past ten days or so has been either factually inaccurate or transparently hypocritical. The journalists are not doing their job. The following are irrelevant to the recent upsurge in migration of children from Central America:
a. Securing the Border (the children want to be caught).
b. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) (It applies only to children who entered the U.S. on or before June 15, 2007) See guidelines.
c. The Obama administration’s statements and policies. (The last thing Obama needed or wanted was thousands of Central American mothers and children flooding across the U.S./Mexico border, overwhelming the ability of the Border Patrol and Department of Immigration to deal with them.)
The best factual account of the background of this phenomenon is a report forwarded to me by my friend, Sissy Farenthold. I describes the out-of-control violence in Honduras, Salvador and Guatemala, as well as the life-threatening perils of the long trek through Mexico to the Texas or California borders. Here is a link:
I believe the U.S. should offer to help our Central American neighbors deal with the lawless gangs that appear to have turned some areas in those countries into hunting grounds for victims of extortion, kidnapping and murder. I don’t know whether it is practical, but it seems likely that Mexico and some South American countries would be willing to join in a coalition to confront the narco gangs that are proliferating in Central America.
Regardless of how effective these efforts are, I don’t see how the United States can abandon its vaunted human rights values by declaring a sort of martial law, rounding up these mothers and children and shipping them back to face life threatening abuse and poverty in their homeland. Some of these migrants undoubtedly qualify as refugees and are entitled to asylum. According to estimates I have seen, 90% of them have family members or family friends who are willing to assume responsibility for them. Careful screening of those people should precede transferring custody to them, a process that will require time, talent and effort.
No child’s fate should be determined without a lawyer to insure that his or her rights are protected. Without researching the issue, I assume that there are many lawyers and law students , appropriately supervised, who would be willing to attend appropriate training courses and qualify themselves to perform that work. Agencies like the American Arbitration Association can furnish adjunct hearing officers to conduct semi-formal hearings. The hearings should be recorded digitally, so that a record is made for possible later appeals.
The problem, as I see it, is not that we lack the ingenuity to solve these problems. The problem is that our elected agents lack the wit, the conscience or the will to address them.
Finally, although I make no pretensions to religious credentials or affiliation, I do regard the Bible as a good, but not the only, book. The teachings of Jesus, as they are described in parts of the New Testament, celebrate and honor some of our most noble concerns for the welfare of our fellow inhabitants of this planet. Now is the time for those who claim allegiance to the Bible to speak out in the spirit of Christ’s statement that our treatment of the “least of these” is equivalent to our treatment of Him. Matthew: 25:31-46.