Tens of thousands of refugee children are massing across the U.S. border. And we’re responding like the biggest assholes on the planet. It’s time to do something about it. At a minimum that means spreading the word, and speaking out. Getting more people to know that this is even happening (because the U.S. media is useless) is the first step toward effecting change. Writing your senators and congressmen (state and federal) is the second step. Tell them human decency and compassion and any sense of justice requires more, and that you approve adequate funding for a humane response to the refugee crisis, and are willing as a taxpayer to forfeit a couple bucks a year for it if need be.
If you want to cut to the chase, and just get started helping spread this message, read Hutchinson’s summary and petition. And sign that. And write all your legislators. But if you need some catching up first…
Here is a quick primer on what’s going on:
- Tens of thousands of refugees, most of them children, are massing across the U.S. border and are overwhelming the scant federal resources Republicans have stingily allowed to be spent.
- They are fleeing the effective equivalent of war: gang and cartel violence and oppression in nations like Honduras has reached levels unparalleled almost anywhere on earth in peacetime, with governments collapsing into near total dysfunction. Even certain provinces of Mexico are so lawless and plagued with violence that citizen militias have armed themselves and taken over, fighting back, as the Mexican government has lost all effective control (though even the militias are turning to crime–as militias tend to do…sorry, second amendment fans, this is the history that repeats itself). In Honduras, much of the country is controlled by drug gangs terrorizing the populace, the state authorities driven out or in their pocket. Similar crises are consuming Guatemala and El Salvador.
- The facilities available to house and care for these refugees, predominately in Texas, are already far beyond capacity and approaching significantly inhumane conditions. So as many as possible are being transported to refugee centers in other states, like California.
- Several buses carrying over a hundred of these Central American refugees, mostly women and children, to one such facility in Murieta, California were forced to turn around by an angry mob of hundreds of flag-waving racists…or in other words, the residents of the town of Murieta. Including the mayor.
I’m not kidding. That is actually happening. In the United States. In 2014; not 1814. Here is a full account, with photos. Hundreds of Americans (we can be certain they are almost entirely god-fearing Christians) actually angrily and violently protesting humane treatment for refugee children. Seriously. I’m most amused by one picture of a protestor carrying a sign that reads: “The WHITE HOUSE called: OBAMA & MICHELE [sic] are WAITING for you there…they love children!” followed by a little heart. Apparently lost on that woman is the fact that she basically just said she doesn’t love children. And proved it not just with words. She physically prevented them from receiving humane shelter. And was fully aware that that’s what she was doing. Despicable. This embarrasses me as an American.
I believe most atheists have values. Unlike the Christians (from the citizens of Murieta to pretty much the entire Republican party) who are almost literally spitting in the faces of tens of thousands of refugee children fleeing dysfunctional war-torn nations. Certainly, an atheist can’t claim to be any better than raving Christian nationalists, if they literally do no better. But I’m sure we can do better, and will. Please join me in signing a statement declaring our awareness of the crisis and our call for more humane action & policy on the matter from our federal and state governments, and the American people.
Our own Sikivu Hutchinson has led the charge and composed a succinct statement I think all humane atheists can endorse: Atheist/Humanist Statement Condemning US Border Crisis & Nativist Attacks on Undocumented Immigrants.
Let’s shame the Christians of this country by demonstrating not only that atheists are more just and compassionate than them, but that there are also enough of us to be a voice to be reckoned with and heard. Let’s show the world that we aren’t the amoral horribles Christians keep claiming we are, but that we actually care about things. Human beings in particular. And it’s high time Christians started caring about human beings, too.
At an absolute minimum, we should be doing all we can to help and care for these refugees. We shouldn’t be forming angry mobs denying them reasonable access to food and shelter and medical care (and justice: the opportunity to apply for resident refugee status, or humane return to their families). We should be opening our shelters to them and donating food and clothes and legal representation. And if citizens can’t do that themselves, our government is obligated to. But to do this, the Office of Refugee Resettlement needs its budget increased substantially–probably by an order of magnitude, at least until the crisis is over. And maybe, I don’t know, perhaps our government should be doing something to help end the crisis, by actually helping our neighbor nations in any way they ask. That also requires money. And giving a damn.
But the first order of business is funding adequate shelter, care, treatment, protection from abuse, and access to legal due process.
To catch up further on the facts of what is going on and why it has only recently ramped up to a crisis, there are two really good summaries both of which I highly recommend you read, by the LA Times and Vox.
Hutchinson also mentions the humanity of the DACA program, and I concur, it is a sensible and just immigration policy that exhibits a sense of compassion for the plight of suffering children and gives them access to justice, but DACA doesn’t apply to these refugees. Nor has existing refugee policy been written for this case, which was evidently quite unanticipated by Congress (we grasp religious persecution, but rampant, murderous violence from de facto societal collapse is apparently not on people’s cognitive radar as a thing). So far Obama has asked for more money to handle the crisis, but primarily more authority to deport all these kids. That’s hardly the most compassionate option, but so far Congress won’t even act on that request, and it’s moot given that it will take months or years to do that, and in the meantime these kids (and they are mostly kids) need to be treated decently and cared for. Even schooled (think about it; imagine tens of thousands of kids stuck in refugee prison camps for a year, and not even taught anything while there, just twiddling their thumbs in overcrowded, underfunded, abusive prison conditions).
If I were president, I’d put out a national call for American families to adopt or sponsor or donate shelter or food or other aid to as many of these kids as possible, explaining their plight, and then shame every church and equivalent (religious and nonreligious) that didn’t likewise promote the same request to its congregants. But I imagine that’s beyond the boundaries of reality for Obama. Like I said, what he is asking for instead is greater deportation authority–to just make the problem go away. Granted, that is financially the cheapest solution, and the GOP loves saving money at human expense. But that still doesn’t solve the immediate problem. More compassionate would be asking for more funding to scale up the Refugee Resettlement system (Obama has asked for two billion; Congress ought to deliver at least one), combined with oversight to ensure it is executed humanely (as reports are, so far, it hasn’t been).
The (sad) irony is that this is the kind of crisis other nations deal with all the time. But the U.S. has been insulated from it for the most part. The Haitian refugee crisis is the only thing comparable, and that is barely a distant memory for most people now (being almost 25 years ago). Clinton’s response to that could give some guidance (even more so since the Haitian earthquake fifteen years later): our policy may have to include actually intervening in the problem countries to help solve the causes of the crisis in the first place. But that requires Congress to care about people who aren’t white, and entangles us in foreign affairs and possibly military intervention (if that’s what the struggling nations ask for). And we won’t get any oil out of it, so Congress probably wouldn’t give a shit. But that leaves us with tens of thousands of refugees.
What is most shocking, though, is how you might not have even heard that any of this is going on.
Welcome to the uselessness of American media.