Why the selective outrage over children and families in crisis?

Immigration Separated Families
[Photo Credit: AP Photo | Wilfredo Lee, File]

For weeks, the outrage over families separated at the Mexican border has dominated media coverage and many personal conversations. Celebrities have weighed-in. Religious leaders have weighed-in. Politicians have certainly weighed-in. The issue is gut-wrenching. I have yet to find a single soul, regardless of political affiliation, who is not moved by the heartache of children being torn from their parents.

The question is what to do about it? The old policy of “catch and release” has failed us and has failed the children involved. It has led to human-traffickers using children as props to cross the border and exploit them. The new policy of prosecuting all adults who illegally cross the border including those with the children, thus requiring the separation, has led to heartbreaking stories as the parents and children are torn apart from one another. Albeit temporarily.

With every passing day I am reminded how incredibly fortunate it is that I am an American and to be able to provide housing, food, a quality education and a safe environment for my children. I know it’s easy to take any one of those factors for granted and the reality that those attempting to cross our border lack those basic necessities is not lost on me. Their lives are no less valuable than mine, or my children’s, simply because they weren’t born here. The problem is that our nation isn’t in a position financially, or with human capitol needed, to provide resources to those coming for America to have open borders, or to take in every person or family that seeks refuge here. We have our own problem with poverty, violence, failing schools, and opioid addiction, just to name a few.

What would life in the U.S. be like if the liberals, celebrities, and media talking about the children at the border gave the same attention and the same resources to the children in foster care or in poverty? Why don’t they feel they need to? Because it’s the government’s job to provide for them? We can’t, or more appropriately we don’t, care for those families in need in our communities well enough and yet there are some that just want to open the borders and take more and more in. Where does it stop?

No one, I repeat, no one wants a world in which children are separated from their families or are treated with anything but respect and tenderness, but compassion can’t be a substitute for enforcement of the laws. Many criminals in the U.S. have a backstory that would break your heart. A life of poverty, abuse, living in bad conditions in unsafe neighborhoods, an education system that failed them, etc. When these individuals are arrested their children are put into foster care or go to a family member. Those children are scared and confused and they want their parents as much as the children at the border want theirs. Why do these children not get the same media coverage?

Don’t tell me that it’s not either or and that you can advocate for both, because the fact is in life some things are truly black and white. United States citizens in the U.S. are afforded unalienable rights, protections and benefits that non-citizens are not.

As I explained to a friend, yes we do have to choose. So long as their are limited resources for food, housing, healthcare and education in our nation then it would be wrong and immoral for us to continue to allow people to come in and burden the same failing systems that are already not working for so many Americans in dire need of their assistance. Yes, we can be outraged about the children at the border being separated from their parents, but to fault only the government officials who are trying to stem a problem is wrong.

What would actually help these families, and other families like them in the future, are rules and processes that are ironclad with no ambiguity. Do we need a complete overhaul of our legal immigration system? Yes. Our guest-worker program needs to be looked at. Our refugee system needs to be looked at. It’s endless, but right now the crisis is with illegal immigrants those who are seeking to enter our nation knowing that they aren’t doing so legally and hoping for the best.

Our country is built on a foundation of laws and that includes laws about immigration. Just because people want in doesn’t mean we have to or should allow them in. Yes, the poverty and violence in the home countries of these individuals is heartbreaking, but so is the violence and poverty in parts of Birmingham, Chicago, D.C. and other American cities. These families have to be turned away because it’s what’s best for those already here. Is that sad and heartbreaking, yes but it’s reality. We don’t have the resources to provide for an unlimited number of people and we can’t afford policies that encourage further migration. That would only make things worse.

If we were guided strictly by our hearts in choosing which laws to enforce then could we allow people a pass when they steal cars or rob banks “for their families”? Would the “Robin Hood” defense suddenly become acceptable? If it’s just in the name of children’s well-being that we turn a blind eye to criminal activity, where do we draw the boundaries?

I read a story today of a family of nine coming to the border with two young children. Should all nine be allowed in because they brought children? What about the human-traffickers, gang members, drug and weapon runners who transport children? Do they get a pass to walk through the border and should the government leave the children with them?

If someone wants to sit at the Mexican side of the border and make it their mission to find and improve the lives of the children who would otherwise come here and face separation from their families — more power to you. I believe that’s incredible. They deserve no less as their lives are no less important than those on this side of the border. The fact is that nations have borders for a reason. We have an immigration system for a reason. That said we cannot bend, break or ignore laws based on pure emotions.

We have a responsibility as a nation to those who are here.

Until we can solve the problems facing the most vulnerable in our nation we can’t turn a blind eye and welcome more. My heart tells me the separation is wrong and there is nothing that can convince me otherwise, but luckily we don’t set policies that affect our entire nation by our hearts alone. We have to change how things are done, but we can’t go back to the way it used to be, catch-and-release didn’t work. Congress needs to take action and definitively provide the resources to process families together or to turn them away 100%.