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Children of God

July 27, 2014

There are always stories in the news that dampen my hope for humanity, but the recent spate of stories about American citizens turning back buses of migrant children and rallying outside of detention facilities to call for their immediate deportation thoroughly disgusts me. I expect power-mongering terrorists to conduct outrageous atrocities, so such news doesn’t shock my senses as much as hearing about ordinary people demanding that innocent children be sent out of their towns and out of our country.

Some people claim that these children aren’t innocent. After all, they’ve broken countless laws in their journeys north from Honduras across Mexico and into the United States, stowing away on trains and crossing international borders without papers. And some of them are former gang members — some would even say hardened criminals — but how hardened can you be at 14 years old?

Well, one can indeed be hardened—hardened by a life of poverty unfathomable to even the poorest of the poor in the United States. Hardened by watching family members and friends die one by one in senseless violence that racks a country with one of the highest murder rates in the world, second only to Syria — Syria. Hardened by a lack of opportunity, a lack of light, a lack of hope.

Yes, one can be hardened, but how can we call any 14-year-old child a criminal? The children pouring across our borders are the victims of decades of corruption and reckless intervention on the part of both the Honduran government and our own government in the United States, which supported ruthless dictatorships in Central America for much of the 1970s and 1980s in the hopes of preventing communism from infiltrating the region via the left-leaning, democratically elected governments that had begun to gain strength during the Cold War. These dictatorships and the paramilitary groups affiliated with them wreaked havoc in the countryside of Central America, killing those with leftist sympathies along with many others who were simply trying to live their subsistence lives in the isolated hills and valley.

As geopolitical concerns about communism subsided and U.S. support for dictators and paramilitaries waned, drug cartels and gangs began to fill the power vacuum left behind, capitalizing on increasing demand from — you guessed it — the United States. They recruited youth from the ruined countryside — children with few opportunities — and roped them into the violent life of drug trafficking. To evade or defect from a gang meant to risk brutal retaliation, and it is this retaliation that many children are fleeing as they travel north to the United States.

These children are not criminals. What is criminal is the attitude of Americans who would deny them help simply because they are from another country — because they are not “our own,” as one protestor put it on the radio. Yes, if you are a parent, you make sure your own children are taken care of before you help others; but helping migrant children does not mean denying our own children the love and care they need and deserve. Our nation is one of the wealthiest in the world, with more money than dozens of the poorest countries combined; certainly we can afford to help a few thousand children who will otherwise be deported back to places where the odds of premature death — weather from violence or poverty or both — are higher than any child should ever have to face. We are all children of God, and this “us” versus “them” mentality that grips our nation in far too many ways (in politics, in religion, in race relations) is simply shameful.

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