Thousands of Central American children are showing up in Texas, creating a new flash point in the contentious debate over our nation’s southern border. No one doubts that the presence of these unaccompanied minors on our border is a problem, but this isn’t an extension of the existing immigration debate, the one legislatively ground to a halt by Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerNunes rebuffs calls for recusal Wounded Ryan faces new battle Bottom Line MORE (R-Ohio).
No, this is a refugee situation, with desperate parents doing the unimaginable to save their children from rampant gang and drug violence. Preteens are being tortured and murdered for refusing to join criminal cartels, their families and friends at risk from further blowback. The dangers of trekking north under “coyote” escort are real, but often the only alternative is a violent death. These children aren’t looking for a better life. They are looking to stay alive.
Throwing more money at the border, something President Obama has requested, is irrelevant. These children are turning themselves in at the border, not trying to sneak through it. And Obama’s further effort to speed up deportations of these refugees is morally bankrupt, condemning many to death.
So it’s true that neither Democrats nor Republicans have acquitted themselves well is this crisis. But the GOP’s particularly virulent reaction is yet another reminder that conservatives are no friends of Latinos.
Many Americans have opened their arms to these children, hoping to help. Catholic bishops have asked for permission to house these refugee children while their cases wind through the legal process. Even extremist conservative Glenn Beck took teddy bears, soccer balls and hot meals to the kids on the border in a welcome bit of compassion.
Unfortunately, Beck isn’t the conservative norm. Hatred is. An anti-immigration group called for Americans to send dirty underwear to the children, apparently to protest their efforts to stay alive.
And there are the claims that the children are disease-ridden: from media cranks like radio personality Laura Ingraham, who said, “The government spreads the illegal immigrants across the country, and the disease is spread across the country,” to House Republican cranks like Rep. Phil GingreyPhil GingreyBeating the drum on healthcare Former GOP chairman joins K Street Former Rep. Gingrey lands on K Street MORE (Ga.) warning of “illegal migrants carrying deadly diseases such as swine flu, dengue fever, Ebola virus, and tuberculosis.”
There’s xenophobic rhetoric like the conservative who told CNN, “I’m protesting the invasion of the United States by people of foreign countries,” as if these children were carrying AK-47s. In a moment of unintentional comic relief, Arizona Republican House candidate Adam Kwasman attempted to block a bus carrying young YMCA campers, mistaking them for refugee children.
“I was able to actually see some of the children in the buses, and the fear in their faces ... this is not compassion,” he told a local TV reporter, inventing a narrative out of thin air. Another protester at the event became conspiratorial, “How do we know it’s the YMCA?”
Again, this isn’t an immigration issue and it isn’t a partisan issue. These kids aren’t coming here for better jobs. They are children literally fighting for their lives. But it looks like conservatives have a problem with the kids’ pursuit of life — not to mention liberty and happiness.
Moulitsas is the founder and publisher of Daily Kos.