Migrant child abuse story not a victory or defeat for anyone.

Sunday, January 31st, 2016
By: Jonathan MontagJ.D.

In the zero-sum-game political world we live in, a victory for one side of a polarized issue is considered a defeat for the other side. This is true with immigration and particularly true with the influx of families and unaccompanied minors coming to America’s southern border from Central America two summers ago, and still coming to a lesser degree. Americans are polarized between those who want to provide humanitarian aid  to these wretched people and those who see them as a population, disease, crime, and terrorism tsunami invading the country.

So, when a court ordered the government not to detain minors as it was contrary to previous agreements not to arrived at after litigation challenging the detention as contrary to statute, anti-influxers saw this as a defeat for eliminating a disincentive to coming to this country. Conversely, when Immigration and Customs Enforcement picked up influxers who lost their cases and had been ordered removed, pro-influxers saw it as a defeat for their side and cause.

Now there is a new issue to polarize the pro- and anti-influxers – reports that children released from detention were placed into abusive households because of inadequate screening. Anti-influxers see it as a victory for their side: the humanitarian case is sad but America cannot solve everyone’s problems. If our country just enforced the immigration laws and stopped supporting illegal amnesty programs, Central Americans would stay in Central America. Besides, alternatively, when our federal government sets out to do something, it fouls it up. Thanks Obama.

The pro-influxers counter that the stories of abuse are few and far between and we should not punish the children fleeing (the probably) worse abuse in Central America than they are facing here by stopping their coming because of some bad placements. Besides, if the federal government (ICE and HHS) just administered the law properly, there would be far fewer cases of abuse. Thanks Obama.

Fleeing families and children facing torture and death in Central America should not be a political issue. Events unfold as the result of previous events. Some could blame the pro-influxers for the rushed screening of guardians because they pressured the government to release the minors. The pro-influxers had good reason, though. First, it was the law. Second, an important reason for seeking their release is because of the squalid and abusive the children were held.  Had the government been able to detain the influxers in humane conditions with access to beds, heat, medical care, education, and access to legal support, the demand to release the children would have been far less compelling. Pro-influxers pushed for the hasty release of the minors to solve a humanitarian outrage perpetrated by the government. That the children’s hasty release caused other humanitarian outrages for failure to adequately vet the people to whom the children would be released and because some of these children and families have crummy families is not a victory or defeat for either side. Sometimes a sad story is just a sad story. Hopefully, lessons can be learned about the challenges in dealing with a humanitarian crisis. Like after Hurricane Katrina where the government natural disaster relief bureaucracy learned to do better, so too here DHS and HHS will have to learn from these events to do better  because there certainly are not going to be fewer humanitarian disasters spreading to our border in coming years.


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