Tuesday, July 29, 2014

What to Do About the Children

George Will is getting beaten up on conservative talk radio for his remark Sunday as to how we should respond to the flood of illegal immigrant children on our southern border. Will said this:
“We ought to say to these children, ‘Welcome to America, you’re going to go to school and get a job and become Americans.’”

“We have 3,141 counties in this country. That would be 20 per county,” he added. The idea that we can’t assimilate these eight-year-old criminals with their teddy bears is preposterous.”
Will also added that the waves of immigrants America took in and assimilated in the 19th Century vastly outnumbered the present influx.

He said that the greatest counter to illegal immigration ever passed by the United States was NAFTA, “which put the Mexican economy on the road to prosperity.” Will advocated for a similar free trade agreement with Central American countries and a plan to reduce America’s illegal drug consumption in order to arrest the flow of immigrants from unstable countries like Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala.

I have to say that I largely agree with Will, with qualifiers. I just don't think sending these kids back to their home countries is either necessary, practical, or right, but I would suggest that absorbing them into the United States should be done only if some other measures are sincerely committed to first.

The first measure, the one upon which the others are contingent, is that our government needs to commit itself to stopping the flow of illegal immigration. If this means finishing the border fence then we should finish it, but to do anything else before we stop the flood is like painting the living room while the roof is leaking.

George Bush was reluctant to build the fence and Barack Obama has been adamant in refusing to build it, or to do much else to control illegal immigration across our border. Nevertheless, we simply cannot ask the American people to do what no other country in the world does which is to allow in all who can make it across our border, and, if Mr. Obama has his way, even those who can't make it across. The president, for example, has proposed sending planes to Central America to bring back those who can't make it here on their own.

As with illegals who have been here since before the recent wave, no policy is worth considering if it's not predicated on a secure border. The reason no immigration reform will be passed as long as Mr. Obama is president is that no one trusts him to enforce any law he doesn't like, much less one requiring strong border enforcement.

Once there is a good faith commitment to securing our border we should inform the recent illegal immigrants that only those unaccompanied children under (say) sixteen can stay. All adults must return from whence they came. If the adults brought children with them they must take the children back with them since separating families is not good policy.

Those who stay will not be eligible for citizenship unless and until they complete high school or serve in the military. Nor will they be eligible for any taxpayer-provided benefits other than schooling. What benefits they receive should be administered by churches and other charitable organizations.

As Will says we can assimilate the children and the young ones are not here through any fault of their own. It would be a failure of compassion, I think, to hold the kids responsible for the decisions made by adults who sent them here. Nevertheless, it would be a failure of fairness to allow law-breakers to leap-frog ahead of those seeking to immigrate legally and it would also be a failure of fairness to require the American taxpayer to bear the burden of compensating for the dysfunctionalities that exist in their countries of origin.

Americans should take the children in, many of them are essentially orphans, but doing so should be largely an act of private charity not an act in which Americans are coerced by our government to undertake and accept.