Monday, June 16, 2014


For at least three years, the number of unaccompanied minors trying to cross the border into the United States has increased dramatically.

But why?

Some contend that the policies of the current Administration are sending a "message" throughout Mexico and Central America that minors coming to this country on their own can be given a special asylum or sent to relatives living in this country.

But that's not what is driving this new surge of unaccompanied minors.  These minors are fleeing horrific conditions in their countries of origin--especially El Salvador and Honduras.  These minors are not coming because they want to leave their homes.  Rather, they are leaving because of two very real problems facing them:  incredible threats against their lives, and hopeless living and working conditions.

These young people tell us clearly that the reach of gangs and the drug cartels has reached deeply into their countries, and that they are faced with incredible decisions:  either join a gang and get shot by a rival gang, or refuse to join a gang and get shot by that gang; or do nothing, and get swept up into the quagmire of the drug cartels.  No hope, no future.  This is what is propelling the departure of these minors across Central America towards the United States.  Sheer desperation.

These problems are not of our making, and their home countries have the primary responsibility for their safety, education, and employment.  However, the political and economic chaos in these countries means that none of these possibilities is available to them.

They feel they have nothing to lose, and set out on a perilous journey in which death and injury are so real.  They pay exorbitant fees to "coyotes" to escort them to the USA.  But most of the time, the coyotes dump them along the way, pocket thousands of dollars, and leave the minors at the mercy of many criminal elements.

Our government needs to prod the Central America countries to take primary responsibility for their citizens, especially the youth, and to find ways for them to remain home, get an education, and find gainful employment.  Sadly, the corruption and instability of these countries makes it virtually impossible for any change in the near future.

So, these children and youth set out on perilous journeys seeking a new life and a new future.

Is this "our problem"?  In the strict sense, no.  But we are a country which offers opportunity for the poor and the deprived, so we should not be surprised that they are coming to us.

The best response would be for our country to pass a comprehensive immigration reform package which will  bring some new order to our antiquated and chaotic immigration system.  Because we have so many jobs available in the low-skill and low-income categories, we have become a magnet for such desperate young people.  Especially since other Americans will not take these jobs, regardless of the salary.

The numbers of unaccompanied minors is a sad commentary on the sending countries.  But as a nation of immigrants, we are compelled to find a way to reunite these minors with parents living in this country.

Sadly, our country's response has been with platitudes and inaction.  We are now reaping the harvest of this inaction.

Jesus told us very clearly:  "I was a stranger, and you welcomed me."  May that continue to be our call and challenge.

Friday, June 6, 2014


It was good news for some 500,000 young immigrants when Homeland Security announced that they were extending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals [DACA] for another two years.  When DACA was implemented in 2012 it was our collective hope that Congress would pass a comprehensive immigration reform law that would negate the need for any further extensions since these young people would be included in the comprehensive approach.

Sadly, the House in Washington still refuses to bring to the floor for vote the U.S. Senate passed Bill.  That Bill would obviate the need for any further piecemeal immigration reform efforts.

These young people were brought to our country by others as small children.  They did not decide and plan to come here on their own.  These youth are attending our schools, and they are getting an education in order to become legal members of our society, get jobs, pay taxes, and support the economic growth of our nation.  DACA has given them permits in order to work, and it would have been tragic to allow those permits to terminate--throwing these youth back into the shadows without any legal protections.

It is imperative that the House take up and pass the Senate Bill as soon as possible.  What is ironic is that there are enough votes in the House to pass the Senate Bill--votes from both Republicans and Democrats.  But Speaker Boehner will not bring the Bill to the floor because he does not have a majority of his Republican members willing to vote for the Bill.

That refusal to bring the Bill to the House floor for a vote is a moral and ethical outrage.  Some 11 million people are being denied the opportunity to start down a difficult, earned path leading to legal status.  They remain in the shadows of our society, most working low-skill and low-pay jobs in order to provide for their families.

I urge Speaker Boehner to end his delay, and to schedule the Senate Bill for a vote in the House as quickly as possible.