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Friday, October 31, 2014 | Last updated: 12:16pm

Protests of undocumented immigrant kids lack heart



Imagine you live in a country where you cannot survive. Jobs are hard to come by and those available will not provide enough for a healthy life for you, let alone your family.

However, you are told that if you are willing to take the risk and cross multiple borders, you can go to a place where you can earn enough to live, as well as send money home. What would you do?

For many of our ancestors, the pursuit of a life better than the one described above drove them from around the world to the United States. In many ways these are the same conditions that now drive people from Central America to the U.S.

Many have made it through and are now working illegally in the U.S. The dangers, like abuse, arrest, deportation and even death, are real possibilities, yet still people cross the border every day to create a better future for themselves and their loved ones.

Those caught are processed and sent back to their country of origin. However, a recent surge in child immigrants from Central America has presented a quandary for this process. Due to 2008 changes to the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act, minors from countries other than Mexico are taken into custody for an extended period until they are either deported to their home nation or taken in by family.

Recently, we learned of the terrible conditions of these minors who are packed in overcrowded facilities. The issue has become a major topic in recent weeks, as people were shocked and angered by the living conditions for these children. More shocking though, has been the response of conservatives like Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu.

Sheriff Babeu is reported to have questioned the minors’ gang affiliation and the possibility of spreading disease. This, along with other criticism of the use of tax dollars to house the minors, makes one wonder if these criticisms are justified, and do these critics have better solutions?

I say no to both. The criticisms that are coming from immigration protesters are xenophobic ramblings rather than valid points. They turn a real human rights issue into what sounds like a pest problem, and their solution ignores many of the reasons that the laws are in place as they are currently.

Many opposed to the presence of the Central American minors have expressed concern that the immigrants coming in will spread diseases like influenza and Ebola.

“Reports of illegal immigrants carrying deadly diseases such as swine flu, dengue fever, Ebola virus and tuberculosis are particularly concerning,” Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Georgia) said in an NBC News interview. “Many of the children who are coming across the border also lack basic vaccinations such as those to prevent chicken pox or measles. This makes Americans who are not vaccinated — and especially young children and the elderly — particularly susceptible.”

However, the article suggested that the claims that illegal immigrants spread disease are false. Sick immigrant children are far more likely to have typical illnesses (common in the U.S.) than exotic diseases, and according to NBC News, Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras have higher vaccination rates than the U.S.

The issue of Central American gangs, such as MS-13, is real. However, these gangs are not new to the U.S., and gang members are more quickly deported. As with diseases, gang activity would not spread out of a holding facility.

Still, many also express anger that tax dollars are used for holding and caring for these minors that are awaiting final action. They instead want them removed as fast as possible.

However, our tax dollars and all of this treatment that we offer to these children, though flawed, is out of compassion and humanity. Whether or not they are sent back, as long as they are here they should be treated as humans. These protestors holding signs that say “return to sender” show a lack of compassion and make it look as though we are treating these people as animals.

That lack of compassion is what is most wrong with these protests. In protesting the basic services given to people, protesters are treating these children like a roach problem.

Eric Klump is a senior studying journalism. Follow him @ericklump


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