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Column: What about the children?

They are hungry and frightened, but the fear of the unknown isn’t nearly as bad as the fear of the known.
Violence in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras has driven parents of thousands of children to send them to our country in hopes of a better life, and freedom.
Some are violently against accepting responsibility for  these children, claiming the U.S. can’t afford it. Others want to take them in and save them from their plight at taxpayers’ expense.
Who is right?
We Americans can’t afford to take in refugees from other countries. Our national debt is phenomenal. Our taxpayers are overwhelmed. We have hungry, abused, neglected children here in our own country who need our help. We can’t save them all.
But they are children. Innocent children who didn’t ask to be born into poverty, strife and fear. If we don’t help them, who will? And how can we even think of returning them to the hell from which they fled?
Many of the children are being used as “mules” by drug smugglers promising a “free pass” to the U.S.
President Obama and Democrats want to legalize millions of illegal immigrants already here and make it easier for illegals to stay here. Republicans want to know who is expected to pay for this, when will it end and why it has been allowed in the first place.
Who is right?
It seems our borders are wide open. Texas Gov. Rick Perry is calling for Obama to visit the border, but our president declines, although he has been in Texas for fundraisers. It is obvious where his priorities lie.
There is no easy solution. If we keep the children here, it will cost heavily, and money will be taken from other needs. If we return them to their home countries, it would be inhumane.
The influx of child immigrants is not new. It began in 2011 but, recently, the numbers have grown alarmingly. Some blame relaxed immigration laws and lack of enforcement of existing laws. You sure can’t blame the kids and their parents for wanting a better life without drugs, abuse, human trafficking and worse. But there is only so much room and so much money. The United States cannot save the world and cannot handle much more of this.
What can be done?
According to, in 2009, there were fewer than 20,000 illegal child immigrants, mainly from Mexico. The numbers fell slightly over the next few years until an increase in 2012 — just over 20,000, and the “new” flow was made up of children from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, with the percentage of children from Mexico staying roughly the same.
In 2013, the numbers of Mexican children sneaking into the U.S. remained about the same, but numbers from the other countries rose sharply, bringing annual totals to almost 40,000. This year, numbers are projected to skyrocket to well over 60,000, with the increase consisting mainly of children from these three countries.
What will we do with 180,000 unaccompanied children over the past five years? Who will pay for their care? What about employment? We don’t have enough work for our own citizens as it is. Will this influx of refugees bring more problems to our already burdened country?
But they are just kids.
They want to play without fear of harm. They want to eat regular meals. They want to go to school and live in a place where there are real opportunities.
They come here to avoid gang violence — join or die, or flee. If they can’t get to the U.S., they’ll go anywhere other than their homeland — even Nicaragua, Panama and Costa Rica are seeing an influx of unaccompanied children.
While some of these kids may have relatives here, many do not. Do we have enough adoptive families to take them in? Do we have enough adoptive families to take in the foster and orphaned children from our own country?
According to the, many Mexican children are turned around and sent back home if they don’t pass an “exam” proving they are in fear of their safety. Obama wants to extend this “exam” to children from other countries. That may be a good idea, as most of the Mexican children are deported. The kids from the other countries, however, are immediately taken into custody and cared for until court hearings, which could take months or longer.
Still — how can anyone with a heart send innocent kids back into hell? Could any of us look a child in the eyes, seeing fear and uncertainty, and deny him a chance at a good, safe life?
But where will the money come from to support these kids?
They are sleeping on floors in what are basically prisons –alone except for each other, wondering where their parents are, and what will happen to them next. They are kids — just kids. Simply having to endure the trip alone to an unknown place, with an uncertain future, is traumatic. What happens when these children need psychological help?
When our veterans do without, our own disabled citizens struggle, our own needy live on the streets and dine from trash cans — how can we rationalize taking in so many more?
And while immigration courts are backlogged as long as 19 months, the children must be fed, housed, clothed and cared for medically.
The question remains — what can be done?
These are innocent children. There must be a solution agreeable to those on both sides of the debate.

Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at 489-9414.

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