Opinion

Robert Ehlert: Ugliness toward refugee children is a lapse of our compassion

Protesters turn back three buses carrying 140 immigrants as they attempt to enter the Murrieta U.S. Border Patrol station for processing on Tuesday, July 1, 2014, in Murrieta, Calif.
Protesters turn back three buses carrying 140 immigrants as they attempt to enter the Murrieta U.S. Border Patrol station for processing on Tuesday, July 1, 2014, in Murrieta, Calif. ASSOCIATED PRESS

Besides the temperature and hurricane season, there’s something else heating up in these United States as we enjoy our Independence Day weekend.

Ugliness. Though we keep trying to patch it, paint over it or ignore it, the roots of it never seem to go away.

I’m talking about the layers of ugliness surrounding our immigration policy in general, and specifically the way some people are dealing with the Central American children (and some of their parents) who have gambled everything to enter our country illegally in search of the things our Constitution guarantees.

I get the fact that this is a mess and a grand example of humanity’s cold shoulder. I understand the very remote chance that a few of these kids could be carrying disease and some of their relatives might be criminals using this mission as a ruse to cross our borders.

I especially get the fact that we have our own problems in this country and our resources are stretched thin.

But when I see protestors in Southern California acting ugly toward a busload of homeless, scared children and their moms, I am embarrassed on a multitude of levels.

I am embarrassed that we have forgotten how our ancestors got here and how some of us have closed the borders of our compassion.

I am embarrassed about how we have ignored our duty to create a workable immigration policy. I am embarrassed that we have put border states like Texas and Arizona in the no-win position of dealing with this situation while the rest of these United States can sit back smugly and say “NOT OUR PROBLEM ... pass the sparklers and potato salad.”

It is disgusting that our president and our Congress can keep ignoring what’s happening on our borders. President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry are wasting their breath and our time sending messages to the homelands of these refugees that they have been misinformed about resources available here.

And about the shallow level of our compassion in some quarters.

Most of my outrage, though, is aimed at Congress. This is a crisis eating at the DNA of who we are, and a crisis deserves the attention of our leaders.

I am waiting for someone to risk his/her re-election, to stand up and demand that the House and Senate calendars be suspended but for one item: immigration. Yes, right now in an election year.

Gamble your future as these children have wagered theirs on this journey.

Put immigration on the docket. Put it on the line. There is no going forward with anything else on these agendas if we can’t find a piecemeal approach to shoring up our borders, fashioning a guest worker program, and creating a fair and orderly approach to citizenship.

Just get one thing done and it might lead to another.

In the meantime, lets get real and understand compassion is not the strength of a government. That can only come from our charitable cities and communities of faith. It is no accident these children are here. It is a test, a test of our ability to be the kind of Americans who came before us.

Congress must act now on this crisis. The practice of Americans screaming at busloads of scared children is a sorry manifestation of ugliness that will be our undoing.

So, maybe I’m being preachy. Preach back. Let us know what you think.

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