Compassion for Children: Refugees Need Help, not Hate

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Are you a parent? If not, do have children (or perhaps companion animals) that you feel lovingly protective toward? Imagine that love and that connection, and then try to imagine how terrible your situation would have to be to send that person you loved far, far away without you. How desperate would you have to be to be willing to send an unchaperoned minor across several countries with strangers? How hopeless must your situation be if a future without ever seeing your child again seems like your best option?

It’s easy for vicious voices on the radio to talk about how they don’t want their tax dollars to go to support children because the imaginary lines they’ve drawn on maps and the balance of their personal checking accounts are somehow more important that the cost in human lives of turning our backs on these children. Let’s not forget that detaining and deporting them will cost quite a bit, possibly more than simply integrating them into our society.

Thankfully, some voices of reason, such as the former Secretary of Labor, have been willing to stand up and remind American citizens that these refugees are fleeing a war zone created by our war on drugs.  Still, it seems like for every calm, rational person who wants to help the children, there are three wackos with guns ready to scream about keeping American jobs for Americans.  Well, I’m sorry, but that’s not what America is supposed to stand for, and that certainly isn’t the ethical thing to do.

It may stand guard on the Eastern shoreline, not the southern land boundary, but the Statue of Liberty’s world-famous poem by Emma Lazarus should still apply to these children:

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

I have a policy suggestion to deal with this humanitarian crisis in the most ethical, decent way possible. There are thousands of children pouring across our Southern border. Estimates state as many as 80,000 may come this year alone.  So far, since last October, there have been a reported 52,000 minors that have crossed illegally into our country.

Let’s look at those numbers, folks.

$11,153 is the average cost per year of an American public school education, and $2,985 is the average cost of health insurance. If you expand that across 80,000 refugees you come up with a total annual expense of roughly $1.2 billion.

That amount may seem huge, but it’s not really that big of a price tag for doing something morally upright (especially when you consider that these children will grow up, get educated, and fill jobs in our society, thus contributing to our tax base). But since I can already hear the selfish moaning of those convinced that this concept will result in a 1/3% increase in their personal tax rate, I’ve come up with a fair idea for how to raise the funds to care for these children properly.

Tax the businesses that have benefited economically from undermining the political stability  and financial independence of Central and South American countries. A lot of them haven’t been paying their taxes anyway. We won’t have to tax them a lot; I’d wager that a tax that was 0.5% of their annual revenue (regardless of write-offs and deductions, no avoiding this tax) would raise more than enough capital to provide for these kids (and probably any siblings and family members left behind). Think of sweatshop production facilities, coffee and palm oil and tropical fruit farms, and even McDonald’s, all of whom have had a powerful destabilizing effect on Central and South America. United Fruit aka Chiquita, we’re all looking at you.

Oh, and the money wouldn’t just be disappearing into some terrible Central American black hole of debt. All that money is going to be paid to American teachers, doctors, and communities to support these children. Those funds will help support good-paying jobs for current American citizens, including therapy and medical positions, education positions, and many more.

Additionally, to prevent the abuses so common in the foster care system, the placement of the children should be handled by trusted, ethical non-profit organizations, such as the Woman’s Refugee Commission. Instead of applying the standard adoption procedures that excludes huge portions of the population, the children could be placed temporarily with average families. If things work well, many of them will hopefully only need one, maybe two, placements. I have to believe there are 80,000 families willing to open their homes to a child in need.

Oh, and to make sure nothing untowards happens to any of those newly-placed refugee children, each one should be assigned a GPS-enabled smartphone (the corporate tax program should easily cover this expense too). The phones should include safety apps that would have the children program two codes: one to indicate they are safe and one to indicate they need immediate help. If the children are required (at least at first) to enter the code once daily and to have weekly meetings with a local counselor whose primary goals are first avoiding additional trauma and secondly helping them to heal what they have already experienced. This will ensure that problematic foster homes are weeded out. And while we’re at it, we can pass a law doubling fines and prison times for those who abuse refugees via the foster system.

The lines on maps don’t actually exist in the real world if you reach the place where the border stands. All of those invisible boundaries were created by jealous, greedy humans who wanted to differentiate between their goodies and someone else’s. These children aren’t foreigners, and they aren’t illegal immigrants. They aren’t coming to steal from our tax base or undermine our way of life; they simply want to live. They aren’t criminals; they are children. Anyone trying to tell you otherwise has their priorities seriously messed up.

Photo Credit: Linda Hess Miller under (CC BY 3.0) via Wikimedia Commons