U.S. can afford to help children in dire straits

Thinking about the tragic situations that have initiated the 50,000-plus child refugee problem on our Southern border, a reflection on the exodus from Iraq after our invasion puts the current situation more in focus. The countries surrounding Iraq, all of which are geographically smaller and economically poorer than Texas, had to absorb 2.5 million people fleeing the violence in their home state. Now, it’s reported that present-day life in Honduras and El Salvador is more than twice as dangerous as Iraq was during our incursion.

Corrupt governments and drug gangs have pushed parents to do the unthinkable: send their children on a thousand-mile journey to an uncertain outcome in a foreign country, often on their own or with some stranger of dubious credentials, for a fee that represents most of the families’ assets. Because of our laws, unaccompanied children who arrive from countries other than Mexico and Canada must have immigration hearings before being sent back. This could take years, after which the majority will be sent home. Perhaps the parents know that eventually their kids will be forced to return, but hope the intervening time will be long enough so that things will get better in their towns.

I also find some irony in the fact that one of the first American casualties in the Iraq conflict was a soldier who was not a citizen, but had come to the United States from Guatemala at age 14 – he, too, unaccompanied by an adult.

Dwight Gradolph