Ed Moore: Compassion and security are not exclusive

Texas Gov. Rick Perry announced he is placing a contingent of the Texas National Guard along his state’s border with Mexico, due to the inability of the federal government to respond adequately to the border crisis.

I am not really sure what these troops plan on doing, but it is good to see at least one elected official taking action, any action, on this swarming of non-citizens over our sovereign borders. These “refugees” streaming across the border are different than those who sneaked in under cover of the dark of night. They voluntarily surrender to authorities.

Will Texas just have more people collecting the willing? What will they do with those collected? Will they build huge facilities, like the United States did with Japanese citizens and resident aliens during World War II, sorting those captured into segments and placing them in internment facilities? How long will they be held? Will they send them back or continue to send them on to relatives, also here illegally but ignored by our government?

A lot of questions with very few answers. That seems to be the order of the day — few concrete, constructive answers to a growing problem, exacerbated by a federal government that has essentially invited folks to come here under expectations of amnesty.

Our immigration system is broken and apparently so is our border protection system. There is not only discrimination in how we handle cases — examine the historical wet foot-dry foot management of Cuban immigrants compared to how we handle Haitian or Dominicans, even if on the same boat — but the entire situation reeks of incompetence and mismanagement. We have placed a doubling of border agents along the border over the past few years and this only serves, apparently, as a stimulus for better aggregation and collection, not protection and prevention.

Children are being dumped by the hundreds somewhere, somehow, close to our borders, having made the long journey all across Mexico. Yet, Mexico seems to have escaped responsibility. Recent video done by Israel of terrorist Hamas agents emerging out of tunnels only serves to emphasize how little we know about who really has crossed our own border and for what reasons.  The current situation is being framed as a humanitarian crisis and, as is always the case, American hearts open, followed by their wallets, as pictures of thousands of children jammed into substandard conditions wear on our emotions.

Now we are treating the processing of thousands of helpless people, mostly children or mothers, as if we have a roadside farmers market all along the border. Internationally the responsible reaction to an issue of children without roots, abandoned or orphaned and flowing like traditional refugees into a country, is to first try to do no harm, then to aid those in need.

But also the required action should be for the country of origin to take responsibility, aiding their own populations. Why the tolerance for their inaction? One shouldn’t throw children in a bin to be picked over like yesterday’s vegetables, yet their home countries created this situation. Children should not be placed at risk by traffickers or perverts, leaving U.S. groups and government agencies as the only solutions.

When China adopted a one child per family policy, world attention focused upon families placing female children up for adoption. Families abandoned female children to the state and orphanages began to grow, which resulted in bad publicity for China, but also a huge population of adoptable children for U.S. families and those of other nations. Over 100,000 Chinese children have been adopted by U.S. families alone, with over 90 percent of them female. The world responded.

When the condition of orphanages in the old Soviet bloc countries became known, Americans flocked there seeking children. These numbers have declined over the past decade and are now less than half what they were in 2004. Yet as recently as 2011, China, Russia, and the Ukraine were leaders in most U.S.-based adoptions. There is a lot of poverty and suffering in the world and there are many ways to tackle these issues. Americans respond.

Tallahassee’s Scott Bonnell, CEO of Hope to Haiti, has raised funds, organized construction, outfitted and opened three children’s homes in Haiti, housing over 125 kids. H2H feeds over 4,000 children, serving over 3,200 meals a day. His efforts are multiplied by Americans serving needs all over the world, now responding passionately to the new crisis on our own border. We must separate the need for compassion from the need for security — but we cannot abandon either. Our borders must be secure or we run a high risk of catastrophic consequences. We can respond to humanitarian needs, but also assure our own people that we are not at risk, nor headed to a permanent welfare state of unending demand.

Americans are not heartless. They are generous, caring, kind, and willing to take humanitarian action when it is needed. But they must be better served by our own government in this critical situation. Right now it isn’t happening.

Ed Moore is president of the Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida, a Tallahassee-based association of 29 private, not-for-profit colleges and universities. Column courtesy of Context Florida.

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