I came across that meme you see above while browsing tweets with the #immigration hashtag on Twitter this week. My first thought was: well, I have a small condo; I couldn’t take all of them, but I could take one. A girl would be better, because she could share sleeping space with my granddaughter Maddie. But yes, Veterans For Capitalism and The Constitution; send me a child, or even a child with her mother, and I will feed them, and clothe them, and educate the child, and unless they have major health problems I can’t afford, I will take care of their basic health care while they go through the INS process.
I think that allows me to speak, right?
The more I thought about Americans volunteering to fostering a “border” child, the more the idea grew on me. So I asked my Facebook friends if they were given the chance to take in one of the unaccompanied minors, would they? After a week of seeing red-faced xenophobes screaming at school busses, I was heartened by the unequivocal “yeses”. One woman said she could take three or four. A newlywed gay friend said he and his partner were ready to tackle parenting. Another “yes” friend told us about how her family took in Vietnamese “boat children” after the war. If there are that many people from my little Facebook community ready to sponsor a child, I have to wonder how many others there are willing to step up?
Congress would never allow it to happen, of course. Republicans now see it as their civic duty to punish the border children as a means to discourage any more from coming. The “best interest of the child” will not be a factor in any legislation they pass. It doesn’t even matter that dispersing the border children into private homes would save them money. They’re now mired in the “billions for deportation but not one red cent for immigrant comfort” sublevel of humanity. No, congress is not going to help.
But I wonder if it might be a program Homeland Security could institute on their own?
I would like to open any temporary sponsorship program to kids of all ages, even to single mothers with their children, but I can already hear the right wing panicking that the adults will disappear into the ether the first time the sponsor goes for groceries. So, for the sake of discussion, let’s say Homeland Security limits the program to unaccompanied children under twelve. Foster families would have to pass a background check, but it wouldn’t have to be CIA level stuff. In most cases, a call to the police department where the sponsor lives, or in the case of a family, the school that their kids attend, is going to do it.
For the child, a home with an American family with a bed and bathtub and a refrigerator is certainly a better situation than being warehoused on a defunct army base or loaded onto a bus where angry faces scream words they don’t understand. But there are advantages for the government too. Taxpayers would no longer have to pick up the tab for housing and feeding the sponsored kids while they wait for their day in court. Dispersed throughout the country, the kids would not be a burden on any one school system. It would also be easier to find an attorney willing to represent a border child pro-bono if that child was living in his own community. And a kid with his own attorney has a much better chance of having a good outcome than a child who shares the services of one beleaguered attorney representing hundreds of warehoused children.
The children lucky enough to find a home with an American family would have stability, but they would also have the advantage of a surrogate parent dedicated to their best interest. The foster family, and the child’s attorney would have the time and inclination INS doesn’t have, to track down American relatives, or get in contact with the child’s parent back home so he could be safely returned. Each child would have their own American champion.
If we only had political leadership, we could handle this child refugee crisis with true compassion: President Obama could tweak the ACA to allow a sponsor’s insurance to cover routine care for the child they take in. President and Mrs. Obama could lead the way and make a symbolic gesture, inviting a little boy to live with them in the White House. Democrats who are lawyers serving in state legislatures could offer to defend, pro-bono, any border child who ends up in his district. It wouldn’t hurt for U.S. Senate and House Democrats to take in, or to represent, a border child either. Lay shame on the “compassionate conservative” crowd, and lead the way modeling how Americans should respond to children in need.
I truly believe big-hearted Americans have the will to help – if only we had a way.