|It offends me that they make our flag a symbol of intolerance.|
by EJ. Dionne
"“The church cannot be silent,” the Rev. Gabriel Salguero, president of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition, wrote in Time magazine, “as angry groups of people stoking the flames of fear yell at buses filled with helpless immigrant children and women.” And Sister Mary Ann Walsh, the media director for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, called for “a moral conscience moment” akin to the response during the civil rights era “in the welcoming of children and others escaping the violence in such countries as Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.”
It is said, and it’s true, that the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act that swept through Congress and was signed by President George W. Bush in December 2008 has had the unintended consequence of encouraging the Central American children to head north. To protect victims of sex trafficking, the law guaranteed an immigration hearing to unaccompanied minors, except for those from Canada and Mexico.
As the bill was making its way through Congress, members of both parties could not stop congratulating themselves for their compassion. The bill, said Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., arose from “exemplary bipartisan cooperation” and showed how big-hearted we are. “Together, let us end the nightmare of human trafficking,” he declared, “and lead the world to see, in the poignant words of Alexis de Tocqueville, that America is great because America is good.” Suddenly, although kids are still involved, we are far less interested in being “good” than in protecting our borders. All the pressure now is to change the Wilberforce Act so it would no longer apply to Central American children.
There’s a strong logic to this. The law does create a powerful incentive for unaccompanied minors from Central America (which is not that much farther away than Mexico) to seek entry, en masse, to our country. But there is another logic: that the anti-trafficking law really did embody a “good” instinct by holding that we should, as much as we can, treat immigrant children with special concern.
Do we rush to repeal that commitment the moment it becomes inconvenient? Or should we first seek other ways to solve the problem? Yes, policymakers should be mindful of unintended consequences. But all of us should ponder the cost of politically convenient indifference."
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