Hundreds of people continue to turn out in Murrieta, California, after having successfully turned away three bus loads of immigrants less than a week ago. The demonstrations confuse the issue between immigrants and refugees. Immigrants are generally people who come to the US trying for a better life, more economic opportunity. The current border crisis, however, revolves around the issue of refugees from Central America and how they are to be treated upon arrival on America soil.
It is understandable that people are upset with so many coming to this country without documentation and without official permission. With an estimated 11 to 12 million here at present, it seems we have about as many as we can usefully absorb at the present time. That problem, however, should not be co-mingled with the issue of refugees. The people in Murrieta, California, are protesting how refugees, and those who might be considered refugees, were being brought into the country pending a formal deportation hearing.
This nation, like most developed nations around the world, has specific policies, and laws, that pertain to refugees. Generally, someone fleeing violence and possible death is not sent back immediately, but given a chance to try to prove they are genuinely in danger if they go back. There is a great deal of violence in Central America, particularly right now in Honduras. Almost no one protested for decades as Cuban Americans were admitted to the US without condition when fleeing the Castro regime. What’s different now? The issue of refugees versus general illegal immigration are being confused.
The confusion goes all the way back to Central America, where people who profit by moving others north have apparently told lies about an “amnesty” awaiting them if the cross the border into the US. These lies have led to thousands of women and children moving north in the hope that they can win the prize of American residency.
Those who scream and shout that everyone should be turned back or sent to DC need to stop and think: what can be done? The Border Patrol doesn’t generally try to stop people while they are crossing the Rio Grande because they would risk causing people to drown in the river, particularly children. Is this what the demonstrators want? Texas Gov. Perry said recently that the problem exists because the “border is not secure”. That’s easy to say. How should it be secured? Should we put up a reverse “Berlin Wall” and shoot those who are trying to come in?
It is completely obvious that different procedures will have to be used, including informing people in Central America that there is no amnesty (which is being done now through television commercials broadcast in the region). The thousands who are coming could become hundreds of thousands in a matter of weeks. Releasing people until their deportation hearings is not working. It encourages people to give it a shot and consider not showing up for the hearing. The problem has been made worse because there are not enough facilities, housing, medical care and food, to take care of people who might be detained closer to the border. It’s a mess.
Those who say “Obama is to blame” are wrong. There have been more deportations under this administration than any other before it. Obama is being criticized by human rights activists for the pace and brutality of deportations, so it is unlikely that both sides are right in their criticism. This is a refugee problem, similar to the type faced by Europe for decades. A massive response is called for and needs to be taken with urgency, otherwise the confusion over immigrants versus refugees could turn a lot more ugly.
Doug Terry, 7.6.14