Wednesday, July 14, 2010

What would you do if ...

What would you do if you looked across your back yard fence and saw a family living in one of the little tin-roofed houses pictured here?  Their child stands in the yard looking back, smiles at you and waves.  You know she has no shoes, no running water, no indoor bathroom, no refrigerator, and no particular chance at an education.  They haven't any access to health care or social services, and perhaps the worst of it is they have no hope; Dad is shamed by his inability to feed his children.  "I have no significance, no worth in the world."

You have several choices.  You could organize a little help for them, perhaps from a food bank, perhaps from some community group that would assist them through some survival basics.  You might do something spectacular like make them part of the community, or pull down the fence and include them in your family, or even make a place for them in your home.  Or you could spend $33,000 on a wall between your house and theirs that would last long enough for their children to grow up and leave or perhaps die.  You wouldn't have to watch.  You wouldn't do that, of course.  Unless the fence line was the border with another country, perhaps.  That photo is Juarez, Mexico.

From my luxurious hotel in El Paso, I can see across the border into Mexico.  The contrast is embarrassing, and I'm struck by the current furor over border security, even a bit bumfuzzled by the multi-BILLION dollar plan to build a fence between us.

It's a few million dollars for every mile of our 1900 mile border with Mexico, aimed mostly at criminal elements, ignoring the fact that criminals won't be deterred by the wall any more than they are currently deterred by air and sea patrols or border checkpoints.  They'll adapt.

Bad guys aside, the illegal immigrants are targets as well. Would the issue be any clearer if we called them economic refugees instead?  Hoping for a better life; crossing into the best of countries surreptitiously because their children will be grown long before the bureaucracy will process their request for entry.  Can't say as I blame them.  I can say I should somehow lend a hand, can't I.

Discussions of illegal immigration so often miss the point of human obligation. If your neighbor is hungry, feed him.  Better yet, give him a hand getting to the place where he can feed himself and his family.  And shoot the bad guys.  National policy discussions and the underlying political will often seems to lack the generosity we know we owe our fellow man and which, if neglected, deprives us of every noble value. 

To be fair, the US generously provides help to Mexico and many other countries through assistance, incentives, and direct aid.  That offsets a bit of the stupid in the fence plan.  Just a bit; not enough to make it look like a good idea, though.  Is there a better way?

So, what are you going to do with what you know?
Do a little research, read a little US policy on the subject, drop your congressman a note,join the public debate, get a little knowledge to replace the pat answers from FOX or CNN or MSNBC?