Not exactly the Ritz; but, better than mean streets
SAN ANTONIO — At lunchtime, teenage boys in red and blue T-shirts stood in line as they entered a hushed cafeteria for hamburgers and hot dogs. Just days earlier, many of them risked their lives crossing the border from Mexico into the United States, but now they were spending their time in spotless, orderly rooms, with police officers ensuring their safety, registered nurses monitoring their health and a host of board games, movies and outdoor activities keeping them entertained.
How these children were being cared for was not unusual. Where they were being held was — at an Air Force base here.
Thousands of immigrants under the age of 18 are arrested every year illegally crossing the border on their own, unaccompanied by a parent or guardian.
They often flee their countries to join relatives in the United States or to escape abuse and neglect at home. A majority are male, 14 to 17 years old and come from El Salvador, Guatemala or Honduras, with a smaller number from Mexico. They are usually detained in shelters while they wait for their cases to be resolved.
But this month, federal officials began housing 200 of these children at Lackland Air Force Base here, turning a vacant dormitory that was once the living quarters of basic training recruits into an emergency shelter for young illegal immigrants.
It is the first time that this subset of immigrants — a particularly vulnerable population, some of whom are as young as 8 or 10 and have been physically or sexually abused — has been housed on a military base.
The use of the Lackland building is only temporary — no more than 60 days, officials say — and in response to what federal authorities describe as an influx of these children. But the move has raised concerns among state officials, immigration advocates and some conservative opponents of current immigration policy…
Officials with the Administration for Children and Families said the licensed shelters in the Southwest where these children would typically be sent are at capacity. They said 7,000 to 8,000 of these children are served annually, but this fiscal year, the number has already reached 6,300, from October through April. In October, 709 were added to the program. In March, new arrivals rose to 1,390…
“We’re seeing emergency shelters becoming more and more of a norm because they just don’t have a plan, either to stop this at the country of origin or to handle this once the children are here,” Lucy Nashed, a spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Perry, said of the federal government. “You’re seeing them having to scramble to mitigate the effects of having an unsecured border.”
I beef as much as anyone about undocumentados brought into regions as scabs to lower wages in one or another industry. Meatpacking and home construction being two significant examples where wages have been depressed 25-50%.
That ain’t what this article addresses, what essentials of humane treatment are involved here. Frankly, I’m as happy to see these kids housed at a military base as a private charity scrambling for every penny in the slums of some Texas town or other. As dumb and illegitimate are most uses of military forces – the attitude of most of our servicemen and women towards children in harm’s way is to reach out and offer aid and love. As they should.
When our government kicks in and helps that process – all’s well and good. Of course it upsets the nutballs on the Right.