By Anonymous (not verified) on February 04, 2009

The immigration system needs to safeguard the children in its custody.

Immigrant children who come here without their parents deserve better treatment.

Each year, tens of thousands of such children cross the border without papers and without their parents.

They are caught up in our immigration system and too often mistreated, denied basic rights and expected to take on responsibilities well beyond their years.

An estimated 43,000 unaccompanied children without documents are removed from the United States annually and returned to their country, according to a recent report by the Center for Public Policy Priorities.

These children range in age from little kids to teenagers. And they have entered for a variety of reasons. They may be escaping violence and poverty, or they may be looking to reunite with other members of their family.

Some cross the borders with smugglers who have been contracted by their parents. The decision to enter this country is more often than not completely out of the child’s hands.

Yet it is the child who suffers.

Sometimes, the Border Patrol agents ignore requests for medical treatment, fail to provide food or water, or place these kids in icy cold cells, according to the report “A Child Alone and Without Papers.” Sometimes children are not allowed access to attorneys or their consulates. Sometimes they are held too long. When they are sent back, sometimes they are returned to unsafe conditions.

Don’t get me wrong. There are good people in the immigration system who treat these children with care and kindness.

Several years ago, I visited a center in my own community that houses unaccompanied children, mostly from Central America. The place was welcoming and the staff members were dedicated. Attorneys worked with the children. The doors of the dormitory were decorated with hand-drawn pictures. Children were given the opportunity to speak to their parents by phone.

We need policies to ensure that all immigrant children who are here without their parents receive such humane treatment.

Critics will say that we should not pay the price for parents who decide to bring their children here outside of the legal immigration system.

They will say that we should not be responsible if other governments cannot provide for or control their own citizens.

They will argue that we should worry about “our own” and not others.

These arguments ignore one important fact: We have a responsibility, morally and legally, to children within our borders. International law confirms this. And in our collective heart we know that all children deserve protection.

The immigration system needs to safeguard the children in its custody.

Yolanda Chavez Leyva is a historian specializing in Mexican-American and border histories. Her research is on children crossing the border at the turn of the 20th century. She can be reached at pmproj@progressive.org.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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