Mental Gymnastics and the Border Crisis

In recent months, I’ve done both:

  1. Tuned out.
  2. Mentally flailed for answers then – finding none – tuned out.

 

The crisis on our southern border is a tough subject, seemingly becoming tougher every day as more and more unaccompanied children leave behind familiar but unsafe surroundings to travel long distances through treacherous territory in search of “the promised land”.

 

It’s also a politically volatile subject, but for those of us who profess to be Christians, the desire to “not be political” cannot replace our responsibility to love our neighbors. I realize there are virtually limitless opinions about how to do that, but opinions don’t meet the needs of the children, and so we have to DO something.

 

boy girl

If you come here often, you’ve likely already guessed that I am “right of center” when it comes to political leanings. Even so, the heartbreaking happenings in my native state of Texas hold no easy or hard-and-fast answers for me. I am, after all, human – and I also have a soft spot for vulnerable children. To borrow a phrase from one of you, this topic causes me to do “mental gymnastics” as I try NOT to simply tune out to a problem that’s much bigger than me.

 

My mental flailing goes something like this…

 

Close the border NOW and return the children to their homelands. They’re not our problem.

 

But wait – take them in for a few days… just long enough to hydrate them, feed them, and provide basic medical care… THEN send them home.

 

Send them home? They’re children! We can’t put them back in the midst of gang violence, drug running, exploitation, and sex trafficking. What kind of humans would we be?

 

They’re likely to be trafficked? Never mind – They can stay here and move into the foster care system. Waaaaay more than half of the sex trafficked children in the U.S. spent time there.

 

Oh, wow, that’s another HUGE problem. Let’s think of this another way. Let’s forget the faces… What makes the most financial sense? Is it less expensive to provide basic medical care – then provide a one-way ticket home OR pay for the thousands upon thousands of children year after year until they turn 18 – and then keep paying for most of them as adults… because former foster children are three times more likely to live in poverty than the general population. Oh, and don’t forget the children they’ll have. We’ll need to pay for them, too, because – well, gee – they’re children!

 

 

Any of this sound like what’s in your head?

 

 

There is zero reason to hash or re-hash how we got to this point. There are lots of opinions about that, too.

 

We need to use both our hearts and our heads to find a way forward.

 

… A way that carefully considers the best interest of the children, the security of the United States, and the wisest financial investment of taxpayer money.

 

Last March, Renaissance Man and I spent several days with two women from El Salvador. Much like ours at Hope Unlimited for Children in Brazil, they run a residential facility in San Salvador, caring for orphaned and vulnerable children. They’ve been doing that for the past 17 years. It costs them about $4,400 per YEAR per child to achieve good (and constantly-improving) metrics of graduate success.

 

Compare that to the U.S.:

  • $259 per day for a child in an immigration detention center; $2,500 per month for one in foster care.
  • In the first year after aging out of foster care, 66% of children will be homeless, incarcerated, or dead.

 

What if…  (stay with me)

 

In the spirit of neighbor helping neighbor, the United States immediately sends a loud and clear (and honest) message that there is no “promised land” to be found across the Rio Grande.

 

The border is closed.

 

Children currently in the United States are fed and given basic medical attention – then returned to their home countries.

 

In-country, children are welcomed at residential facilities already being run by reputable NGOs and non-profit organizations. Facilities staffed by people exactly like our friends from El Salvador.

 

collage

 

Finally, the U.S.then takes a small portion of the money (that would have been needed had the children been placed in U.S. foster care) and sends it to our continental cousins in Central America to be used specifically by the existing residential facilities to care for the children. The money could also be used to build and staff new facilities to address the increasing problem of orphaned and vulnerable children.

 

The result?

  • Safety (and cultural stability) for the children
  • Decrease in the number of children available to be exploited and/or trafficked
  • Opportunities for education, vocational training, and future success for the children and their children
  • Reduced health and security risks to U.S. citizens
  • Reduced financial stress on U.S. communities
  • Goodwill between countries

 

Will some children still “fall through the cracks”?  Yes, they will.

 

Is it worth a try? Absolutely!

 

The one guarantee we have is this:  If we DON’T do something, we’ll fail the children – and we’ll guarantee their failure.

 

Can we really live with that choice?

 

I’m joining Tell Me A Story and UNITE at Rich Faith Rising.

 

Comments

  1. NancyJill says:

    Oh my dear I have been struggling with my thoughts on this situation! So many variables…sweet innocent children making the trek to our country…then there are the “adult” children who appear to be more like gang members with wicked intent walking across our borders….what to do!? Thank you for bringing some pondering thoughts to the table…how I desire to walk out the choices our Lord would call us to walk…and not to forsake His own….oh to be used as an instrument of His love….

  2. It is certainly a tough situation., but remembering they are innocent children is the most important thing to keep us all on track in how things are handled. My heart breaks for how they have suffered. My hearts cry is love them like Jesus!

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