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COLUMN

America's open border: cruelty and chaos masquerading as compassion

Helping those who deserve it requires screening out those who don't

Thursday, June 26, 2014 - 12:01 am

In Brooks County, Texas, the expense of burying 120 illegal immigrants in the past year, many of whom died while being smuggled into the country for profit, has forced the government to cut deputies' pay, benefits and equipment to the point that police from other jurisdictions are volunteering their time and bullet-proof vests.

The superintendent of schools in Chelsea, Mass., near Boston, says the district is struggling with a "dramatic" increase of 350 immigrant students this year many of them illegal.

And just this week the mayor of nearby Springfield, Mass., called for an end to the resettlement there of refugees, many from Somalia, saying the 1,500 newcomers are straining the community's resources.

This is what can happen when Americans' noble humanitarian impulses are unchecked by common sense, political will or the rule of law: chaos that, in the long run, benefits no one but those willing to exploit other people's misery.

Which brings us to America's latest border crisis, the recent surge of children crossing America's southern border without their parents, many of them from Central America -- as many as 90,000 of them, according to Obama administration estimates.

Typically, the White House is blaming Republicans and other opponents of so-called comprehensive immigration reform. Other Democrats contend this isn't an immigration problem at all, but a humanitarian crisis.

Some Republicans, on the other hand, just as typically blame the current influx -- which has seen young immigrants crowded into makeshift holding facilities like so many stray cows -- on Obama for not doing more to control the border.

Are these children simply the latest wave of illegal immigration? Or are they in fact refugees entitled to some degree of legal protection and residency? Some insist the latter term applies under U.S. law that defines a refugee as one who has demonstrated that they were or might be persecuted because of race, religion, nationality or political opinion in their home country.

Earlier this year, the United Nations asked 404 children from Mexico and Central America why they crossed the U.S. border. At least 58 percent claimed to have been forcibly displaced. But even if that were the case, it would mean 42 percent were not.

Gladys Chinoy, 14, or Guatemala, told the Associated Press this month that there is a widespread belief that women and children can simply surrender to authorities and gain access. "The U.S. is given us a great opportunity because now . . . we don't have to try to cross the desert where so many people die." Even so, potentially dangerous smugglers are reportedly involved in some of the human trafficking -- providing a convenient pretext for federal officials to declare some border areas off-limits to journalists.

As home to thousands of Burmese refugees, Fort Wayne has struggled with numerous challenges and has at times legitimately sought to slow the influx to manageable levels. But without a secure border, such control is impossible, blurring distinctions between legal refugees and illegal immigrants and, in the end, consigning real human beings to hardships that may rival those they are trying to escape -- and the country to challenges and expenses best avoided, not encouraged.

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Kevin Leininger at kleininger@news-sentinel.com or call him at 461-8355.