Treat Central American Children at Our Borders with Humanity


Politicians seeking political advantage blame the Central American children crisis on President Barack Obama. They demand that the border be secured. But these children aren’t undocumented immigrants trying to sneak into America. They are refugees fleeing threats on their lives, and hoping to reach our border security guards, not avoid them. They aren’t running to America; they are running from homes where their lives are under threat. Protestors aren’t trying to help border security round them up; they are blocking buses from reaching border security.

We have a broken immigration system. Comprehensive reform has been blocked, largely by the same politicians now condemning President Obama. But the challenge posed by 50,000 children from Central America isn’t about a broken immigration system or a porous border. It is about children fleeing a violent land seeking refuge in a storm.

America, famously, is a land of immigrants. Waves of immigrants — some coming voluntarily, some brought against their will — built this country. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” reads the Statute of Liberty, a monument to that reality. But these children are not immigrants. They are not seeking jobs. They are refugees seeking safety.

When Jesus fled to Egypt, he was a political refugee. Herod, the Roman King of Judea, feared the new born King. He ordered the murder of every child in Bethlehem under the age of two. Warned by the angel, Joseph and Mary fled to Egypt with the Jesus, and stayed there until Herod died. Had Egypt sent him back, Herod surely would have killed him. We should remember that teaching when we look at these children.

In 1938, in the wake of Kristallnacht, German Jews were desperate to escape Nazi death camps. Over 900 bought passage on the SS St. Louis, leaving Germany for Cuba. In Cuba, they planned to wait until they could qualify under the very restrictive quotas the U.S. had imposed. When the boat got to Cuba, the Cubans had reversed their policy and refused to allow the passengers to disembark without a massive bribe.

The German captain then sailed the ship toward Florida hoping to get shelter there. The SS St. Louis was not allowed to land in the U.S., with the Coast Guard dispatching cutters to keep it away. The Jews returned to Europe. It is estimated that one-fourth of them died in concentration camps.

Guatemala and Honduras are two of the most murderous countries in the world. The drug trade that is fueled by American demand for it has produced deadly gangs and gang wars that savage the countries. These children are put in the hands of smugglers on a perilous journey because their lives would be snuffed out if they stayed. No parent would allow their child to face those risk if they weren’t truly desperate.

There are terrible refugee crises across the world. Hundreds of thousands displaced by violence in the Middle East, by the growing civil strife in the Ukraine, by civil and ethnic and religious wars. We work with other countries that take the threatened in, seeking to provide some refuge in the storm.

The children on our border are not so numerous. We should treat these children with humanity, with care. We should see if the risks back home are real. We should unite those at risk with family members where possible or find them foster homes if necessary. We should be working hard with authorities in Central American countries to bring the violence under control. This will take time.

But we do not want to be an Egyptian pharaoh who would send Jesus back to Herod, nor a callous government that sent Jews back to Europe and eventually to death camps.

We are better people than that. Our economy doesn’t work for most Americans. Our immigration system is broken, abused by low-wage employers, and needs to be fixed. It is understandable that people are angry and scared. But surely we still have the generosity of spirit to provide refuge for children in terror of their lives.

Jesse Jackson founded Rainbow/PUSH.

Jesse Jackson is the founder of Rainbow/PUSH.

October 08, 2015
Michael Horton
Why is the US Aiding and Enabling Saudi Arabia’s Genocidal War in Yemen?
Ben Debney
Guns, Trump and Mental Illness
Pepe Escobar
The NATO-Russia Face Off in Syria
Yoav Litvin
Israeli Occupation for Dummies
Lawrence Davidson
Deep Poverty in America: the On-Going Tradition of Not Caring
Thomas Knapp
War Party’s New Line: Vladimir Putin is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things
Brandon Jordan
Sowing the Seeds of War in Uruguay
Binoy Kampmark
Imperilled by Unfree Trade: the TPP on Environment and Labor
John McMurtry
The Canadian Elections: Cover-Up and Steal (Again)
Anthony Papa
Coming Home: an Open Letter to 6,000 Soon-to-be-Released Drug War Prisoners From an Ex-Con
Ramzy Baroud
Listen to Syrians: The Media Jackals and the People’s Narrative
Norman Pollack
Heart of Darkness: A Two-Way Street
Gilbert Mercier
Will Russia, Iran, Hezbollah and Iraqi Shiite Militias Defeat ISIS in Syria and Iraq?
John Stanton
Vietnam 2.0 and California Dreamin’ in Ukraine
William John Cox
The Pornography of Hatred
October 07, 2015
Nancy Scheper-Hughes
Witness to a Troubled Saint-Making: Junipero Serra and the Theology of Failure
Luciana Bohne
The Double-Speak of American Civilian Humanitarianism
Joyce Nelson
TPP: Big Pharma’s Big Deal
Jonathan Cook
Israel Lights the Touchpaper at Al-Aqsa Again
Joseph Natoli
The Wreckage in Sight We Fail To See
Piero Gleijeses
Cuba’s Jorge Risquet: the Brother I Never Had
Andrew Stewart
Do #BlackLivesMatter to Dunkin’ Donuts?
Rajesh Makwana
#GlobalGoals? The Truth About Poverty and How to Address It
Joan Berezin
Elections 2016: A New Opening or Business as Usual?
Dave Randle
The Man Who Sold Motown to the World
Adam Bartley
“Shameless”: Hillary Clinton, Human Rights and China
Binoy Kampmark
The Killings in Oregon: Business as Usual
Harvey Wasserman
Why Bernie and Hillary Must Address America’s Dying Nuke Reactors
Tom H. Hastings
Unarmed Cops and a Can-do Culture of Nonviolence
October 06, 2015
Vijay Prashad
Afghanistan, the Terrible War: Money for Nothing
Mike Whitney
How Putin will Win in Syria
Paul Street
Yes, There is an Imperialist Ruling Class
Paul Craig Roberts
American Vice
Kathy Kelly
Bombing Hospitals: 22 People Killed by US Airstrike on Doctors Without Borders Hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan
Ron Jacobs
Patti Smith and the Beauty of Memory
David Macaray
Coal Executive Finally Brought Up on Criminal Charges
Norman Pollack
Cold War Rhetoric: The Kept Intelligentsia
Cecil Brown
The Firing This Time: School Shootings and James Baldwin’s Final Message
Roger Annis
The Canadian Election and the Global Climate Crisis
W. T. Whitney
Why is the US Government Persecuting IFCO/Pastors for Peace Humanitarian Organization?
Jesse Jackson
Alabama’s New Jim Crow Far From Subtle
Joe Ramsey
After Umpqua: Does America Have a Gun Problem….or a Dying Capitalist Empire Problem?
Murray Dobbin
Rise Up, Precariat! Cheap Labour is Over
October 05, 2015
Michael Hudson
Parasites in the Body Economic: the Disasters of Neoliberalism
Patrick Cockburn
Why We Should Welcome Russia’s Entry Into Syrian War