Central American migrants sit on top of the border wall on the beach in San Diego during a gathering of migrants living on both sides of the border, Sunday, April 29, 2018. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
America has every right to protect its border and secure our nation. No matter which side of the political aisle you’re on, this should be high on the priority list.
Unfortunately, partisan bickering has made border security yet another binary issue. Often, discussions about this sensitive topic are devoid of both facts and compassion. Neither Democrats nor Republicans approach the subject with the realism and decency that it deserves.
We can debate over a wall/fence, funding (even though…Mexico was magically supposed to pay for it), and whether or not everyone who crosses the border is an STD-carrying druggie rapist. However, one thing that both sides should agree on is how the children must be treated.
The innocent little lives who enter our country through no will of their own deserve special consideration and care. They have not made the choice to make the long, often-treacherous journey to the United States to start a new life. They aren’t the ones who decide to rush the border when they should be waiting in line in order to request asylum. Instead, they’re shuffled along as parents and guardians (or even predators) make decisions for them. Sometimes, they end up being a second thought.
Early in December, a 7-year-old Guatemalan girl named Jakelin Caal Maquin died in a Texas hospital, purportedly of dehydration and shock, not long after being taken into custody by border patrol.
Since Maquin’s death, it’s been reported that her father, by way of his home country’s consulate, insists she was healthy during the trip and treated well once in U.S. custody. But according to Customs and Border Protection, “the girl had not had anything to eat or drink in several days.” The confusion surrounding what really happened is bound to continue, and sadly the young girl’s story will eventually fade out of the news cycle.
On Christmas day, a similar situation occurred when a young boy died after being in CBP custody.
Identified as 8-year-old Felipe Gómez Alonzo, he and his father, Agustin Gomez, had been detained by U.S. border authorities since December 18.
Accompanied by his father, the child was taken Monday afternoon to a New Mexico hospital and diagnosed with a cold. When doctors observed a fever, he was kept for 90 minutes and then released with a prescription for antibiotics and ibuprofen and taken to a holding facility. He began vomiting later around 7 p.m., and his father “declined further medical assistance” according to CBP. However, the boy was later returned to the hospital after becoming “lethargic and nauseous.” He died just before midnight on Monday.
After Alonzo’s death, the DHS issued the following:
NEW: DHS Sec. Nielsen on death of second migrant child in US custody: "At my direction, all children in Border Patrol custody have been given a thorough medical screening. Moving forward, all children will receive a more thorough hands on assessment at the earliest possible time" pic.twitter.com/JRMsffqpge
— ABC News (@ABC) December 26, 2018
The problem is, these assessments should already have been standard protocol. These children don’t have control over their circumstances and should be given priority and special attention no matter if they’re sick when they arrive or not. The adults on both sides of the border must do what they can to meet their needs. Politics should play no part in that decision.
Of course, at the sound of this suggestion, the often-hysterical, Boomer-heavy MAGA crowd leans forward and yells about how the parents of these helpless souls are entirely to blame for taking their children on a trip filled with danger and potential disaster. Yes, the majority of blame does sit atop the shoulders of these parents/guardians for the health of these minors.
But listen closely; not all of it.
When migrant children are taken into custody by border agents, I believe those agents have a responsibility to place the wellbeing of the kids above that of the decision-making adults.
It is the right thing to do. It is the pro-life thing to do.
Already, I’ve encountered those aforementioned uncritical thinkers, of which there are many, who preach a message of “compassionate conservatism” all while damning these kids to some sort of miserable existence. In fact, they almost say these children deserve their end. This behavior would be shocking if we weren’t already two years into a political reality where cruelty and ridicule are hailed as redeeming qualities by the same crowds eager to highlight the moral deficit of their ideological opposition. I am disgusted, but I am not surprised.
Dealing with the health of migrant children in the way described above is neither difficult nor does it chip away at the need for a secure border. Instead, it approaches the subject with realistic decency. If this protocol feels wrong to you, then it’s time to take off that red hat and do some overdue soul-searching.
Those who call themselves “pro-life” should maintain a consistent morality that looks at all life as precious, no matter if it’s in the womb, newly born, or stumbling across the border, exhausted, frightened, and holding the hand of the adult who led them. Giving migrant children earlier and more thorough medical screenings/care, in an effort to keep them from sickness and even death, is a must.
Yes, debate the border issue all you want. But you must consider the children and it must be done first.