We are gripped by the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Europe as a seemingly unending number of people seek refuge away from countries wracked with war and terrorism.
It can be easy for Americans to look across the ocean and call for swift action to address the suffering of those seeking safety and a better future for themselves and their children. It is harder for us to deal with the similar tragedies in our own backyard. The number of refugees at the U.S. southern border fleeing from violence and narco-terrorism in Central America has declined dramatically from last year. But it isn’t because those countries have gotten safer, it is because the United State has worked closely with Mexico and other nations to turn people away before they get to the U.S. border.
Those who sought protection in the United States were sent in large numbers to detention centers – jails – to be held for months at a time. Mothers and children—babies—were held in jails for months without knowing what would happen to them. The stated goal of the Administration putting them in jail was to deter others from seeking protection in the United States. Only recently did a court order the swift release of families from detention while they await decisions on their requests to remain in the United States.
This global phenomenon of suffering must be addressed. In the United States, that means a functioning immigration system. Our laws and practices must reflect our values as a nation of immigrants and who believe in protecting and welcoming into our communities asylees and refugees. We should not cast aspersions on our European friends while failing to correct the way we treat our neighbors in need.