EDITORIAL: The crisis of migrant children at U.S. border

June 9, 2014 

Hundreds of unaccompanied children are trying to cross the U.S. border to reunite with family already here illegally. More must be done by the federal government to confront this humanitarian crisis.

RICK SCUTERI — AP

President Barack Obama has ordered the federal government to respond to the massive numbers of unaccompanied children trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border illegally, calling it an "urgent humanitarian crisis." Indeed, it is.

Thousands of children and babies, alone or with their mothers, are swarming into the U.S. along Texas' Rio Grande Valley. Many of them are coming from Central America, so many the U.S. doesn't know what to do with them all.

This is just part of the picture, however. The rest includes thousands, maybe millions more people south of the border trying to escape desperation and death.

Of course, that's been true for some time and doesn't explain a sudden surge -- from 13,625 in 2012 to 24,668 last year -- in children traveling north on their own. Homeland Security officials expect 90,000 unaccompanied minors to be detained by the border patrol this year. And those are just the kids caught; it doesn't include the many stranded alone in Mexico's dangerous border towns.

More likely, the migration is a result of ambivalent immigration policy that is sending mixed signals. While the Obama administration has deported a record 2 million people, it has also extended a compassionate arm to undocumented children. It's no surprise, then, that there's the belief in Central America that if kids can survive the treacherous journey and get across that border, they will be allowed to stay.

Obama did what he could by ordering the Department of Homeland Security to provide special services to the unaccompanied minors who were picked up by the U.S. Border Patrol. DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson has turned the job over to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The children will be housed at least temporarily on military bases in Texas and in California at Port Hueneme in Ventura County.

The president's order isn't a solution at all, just a half-measure to deal with the immediate crisis. Without a clear policy from the U.S. and without pressure from the international community on countries from which the immigrants are fleeing, it will get worse. More families and children on their own will leave their homes for a dangerous journey during which they will be prey to human traffickers, criminals, disease and injury.

Where are the international aid groups, such as World Vision and Amnesty International? Where is the UN? Where are the celebrities who advocate for endangered children worldwide?

Sadly, it's hard for many of the champions of children to recognize a humanitarian crisis when it happens this close to home.

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