By Sarah Choate
The world is rank with chaos and disaster, and news publications have been sure to make everyone aware of the issues: ISIS terrorizing the Middle East, riots in the streets of Ferguson, Mo., Scotland working to secede from the United Kingdom, Ebola spreading throughout western and central Africa, and Russia invading Ukraine, among other problems. In light of all of these events, one crisis has been grossly neglected: the U.S./Mexico border crisis.
There has, of course, been news coverage of the issues happening along the border—a crisis characterized by more than 63,000 Central American children crossing the United States border since October 2013, according to a compilation of statistics published on the New York Times’ website. It should be noted that the number 63,000 does not likely even begin to reflect the reality of how many children have actually made the trek from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador to the United States – that number only reflects the number of children who were caught crossing the border illegally.
Politicians from both parties agree on one thing: there must be some kind of change to the way we deal with immigration, especially in how we deal with immigrants coming from Central America. They disagree, however, on how the U.S. might best solve this problem, declared to be a “humanitarian crisis,” by President Barack Obama.
People on both sides of the immigration issue, both those who want to make immigration easier and those who want to make immigration harder, are grossly missing the point of solving this crisis. Instead of working to mend the issue both with our borders and in Central American countries, both Democrats and Republicans are politicizing the issue and turning it into a pawn to win votes so their desired party might rule the Senate and House.
Though it has not been expressly stated, many see Obama’s failure to follow through with his plans to fix the border crisis as a ploy to avoid doing anything controversial that might compromise votes toward several Democratic runners for the Senate election in November.
On the other side of the issue, many Republicans are losing sight of this being a humanitarian issue. The party has, in general, made this expressly about immigration, border control and national security. While these are concerns, we must not forget that we are dealing with real, living, breathing children—children who are homeless, alone, uncared for and scared. The people come first, the policy and reform later.
On top of everything, the American public has been chattering incessantly. Both in the media and in my personal life I hear people speak about immigrants from Central America in brutally racist ways. “Why don’t they just speak American?” “Go home.” “They’re stealing our jobs.”
Whether or not these comments are intended as racially charged statements, they are. All of these statements are based on a “them and us” mentality that shows that America is perhaps not quite over the need for equal-rights and anti-racism movements.
In my experience, I have seen first-hand that even well-intended Americans who have only the safety of our country in mind often subscribe to racist ideologies of Central American peoples – they buy into the stereotype. I am a Spanish major and am planning a long trip to Mexico within the next year to study or to volunteer with a missions agency. As I have been working toward this goal, friends and family members have shown intense opposition to my plan. However, when I wanted to spend a semester in Europe or travel to London and Paris for a few weeks in the summer, they were completely on board. It was not the fact I would travel that worried them – it was the fact that I would be travelling in Mexico, the land of the stereotypical job-stealing, homicidal, drug cartel, gang-banging Latino.
Their notions of Central America are completely askew. While bad things happen in Central America, it cannot be said that none of those things happen in the United States, or anywhere else in the world.
As a Christian and as a student studying Spanish, I have a heart for my Central American brothers and sisters. Regardless of the language we speak, we as human beings must place the lives of other human beings higher than the desires for policy, reform, or politics.
We are called by Christ to love, to take in orphans and widows. As Christians we should not participate in the mindless, racist chatter that revolves around the humanitarian crisis at the nation’s southern border. The news media and politicians may be neglecting this issue, but we should not neglect the abandoned children of the border crisis.