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The real border crisis


July 1, 2019

There is, in fact, a huge crisis at the border— one that demands the attention of every citizen in America. It’s just not the crisis that Trump and Pence and their trusty sidekick, Chief Cheerleader Kevin Cramer, have been trying to get everybody to buy in on.

No, there are not record numbers of illegal immigrants sneaking over our southern border to take our jobs (there’s some evidence to suggest they actually help create more jobs), leech off our welfare state (illegal immigrants have zero access to federal benefits programs, and even legal immigrants have to wait five years for any benefits to kick in), refuse to assimilate to our way of life (today’s immigrants, both legal and illegal, have proven to assimilate more quickly than at any other time in history), and commit violent crimes (U.S. citizens commit crimes – both violent and nonviolent – at much higher rates than either legal or illegal immigrants).

So what’s the crisis? Kids – some of them just months old – forcibly separated from their parents and crowded into cages – hundreds of them at a time, in facilities meant to handle a small fraction of that number – where they’re forced to try to sleep on cement floors, with aluminum-foil blankets all they have to ward off near-freezing temperatures.

The United Nations is, at the moment, considering whether this is an international incident of crimes against humanity. And I’m sure you’re wondering: What depraved, poverty-stricken Third World country are these kids being kept in? What tyrannical warlord is allowing this to happen under his watch?

The answer, of course, is us. It’s happening here, in the United State of America, down by our southern border. A lawyer for the U.S. Government actually stood up in court the other day, arguing that just because there’s a law that says that such children – they’re hostages, essentially – need to be held in “safe and sanitary conditions,” well, that doesn’t mean that we need to give them, you know, luxuries like soap or toothbrushes. The clothes of many of the children being held are soiled with mucus and feces and infested with lice. There’s been a flu outbreak. Little kids don’t have diapers. There’s not enough food for them. At least three former employees of one of the detention centers have been arrested for sexually abusing migrant children.

Speaking of hostages: Several American citizens who have recently served as long-term hostages of various dysfunctional, war-torn states have come out in recent days to say that the conditions they were kept in was better than what these children are forced to tolerate. Others have noted that if these children were prisoners of war, our treatment of them would violate International Humanitarian Law.

Some immigration attorneys recently visited some of the sites where these children are kept and found that many of the very youngest ones, with no one else to look after them, are being watched over by young teens. Four of them were found feverish, coughing, vomiting and had diarrhea… “one two-year-old’s eyes were rolled back in her head.” Thanks to the efforts of these attorneys, our Customs and Border Patrol officials were forced to hospitalize them.

What really provoked the outrage of Republicans all across the country, though, was the name that some people used to describe these camps— where children have died in our custody and others have been sexually abused; where children are malnourished and living in filth and disease, separated from their parents, who in most cases have no idea where their children are and whether they’ll ever see them again. Some people called the “concentration camps.” Republicans— have you heard a single one of them speak out against any of the above? Anyone? No, not a word— but man, were they quick to be utterly indignant and outraged when someone called these “concentration camps.”

I don’t really care what we call them. I also don’t want to hear any politician going on about “the dignity of life” while kids are dying and fending for themselves in filth and squalor and disease. It’s worth noting, by the way, that Anne Frank didn’t die in the gas chambers at Bergen-Belsen. Anne Frank died from an illness – typhus – caused by unsanitary conditions and spread by lice.

Why, though, are the Republicans so silent about all of this? Well, it turns out that these tent cities filled with cages are actually being run by private business that the U.S. Government has awarded contracts to. And business is good! These businesses charge the U.S. Government— that’s you, by way of your taxes— an average of $775 per child per day. To live in a cage, in a tent, in filth and squalor. Ever pay $775 for a hotel room for a night? Would you expect – I don’t know – soap? But it seems the companies running the camps know who butters their bread, so to speak— and they butter it right back: The companies donate millions of dollars to politicians, virtually all of them Republicans. Why would they ruin such a good thing?

When asked to defend something so utterly indefensible, Republicans in Congress and on Outraged Twitter and in coffee shops and elsewhere generally just stammer something out about how these kids shouldn’t have come here illegally to begin with, dangnabbit! The problem with that argument: Most of these kids have someone – a family member, a relative, a family friend – waiting for them in the United States! They’re just waiting to be processed. But every day longer they’re held, well – that’s another $775 that could be funneled back to Republicans running for office. (There’s also a larger point: Simply seeking asylum, as some of the other children – and adults – are doing, is entirely, 100% legal according to U.S. law, provided that you seek asylum at the proper place. That’s exactly what these people are doing.)

You’d think this might be a good time for some of our religious leaders to speak up— particularly the evangelical crowd that forms the backbone of Trump’s eroding base of supporters. Surely they’ve had enough, yeah? As I was writing this, Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, which is “dedicated to engaging the culture with the gospel of Jesus Christ,” wrote on Twitter that “the reports of the conditions for migrant children at the border should shock all of our consciences. Those created in the image of God should be treated with dignity and compassion, especially those seeking refuge from violence back home. We can do better than this.”

Not missing a beat, the country’s most prominent evangelical – and close friend and fervent supporter of the President – Jerry Falwell, Jr., wrote back to Dr. Moore, asking, “Who are you? Have you ever made a payroll? Have you ever built an organization from scratch. You’re nothing but an employee.”

I don’t know, Jerry: Did Jesus ever make a payroll? You’ll pardon me if I was expecting you to come up with some kind of perfect Bible verse to explain the situation to people everywhere who call themselves Christians. Something like “Whatever you do to the least of my brothers and sisters, you do unto me.” (That’s Matthew 25:40, if you want to use it.)

Corey Seymour is a proud NRHS graduate who went on to study political science, economics and literature at UND and Georgetown University. A former writer and editor on the National Affairs Desk at “Rolling Stone” and at many other magazines, he now works as a senior editor at “Vogue” in New York. Write him at [email protected]


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