Kids Rescued from Cave but Not from Cages
By Arturo Castañares / Publisher and CEO
For two weeks, the world was transfixed on a flooded cave in Thailand that had trapped 12 young soccer players and their coach.
Millions watched live news updates to find out if these young boys would be saved and reunited with their desperate families.
The Thai military provided SEAL team divers in hopes of reaching the stranded boys in time. One former SEAL died trying to navigate the dangerous tunnels.
Through no fault of their own, the boys and their coach had been trapped in the cave when monsoon rains flooded parts of the tunnels.
Scared and alone, the boys weathered the cold, unsure of their fate, and desperate to see their parents.
As the world watched, thoughts and prayers went out to the families, hoping the boys would soon be home where they belonged.
Thankfully, after 16 days in the dark, rescuers were able to lead the entire soccer team to safety, and into the loving arms of their families.
We have seen other harrowing stories of kids trapped in dangerous situations.
In 1987, 18 month-old Jessica McClure fell down a water well and her 56-hour rescue was carried live on TV, and last year rescuers worked to free 11 students trapped in the rubble of a school after a 7.1 magnitude earthquake hit Mexico City.
In those cases, the human interest story of potential tragedy attracted worldwide attention.
Children are our future, and we worry when they are put in dangerously uncertain circumstances.
But, much like the heart wrenching story of the trapped soccer players, another sad story of desperate children is unfolding in real time yet the same public outcry is conspicuously missing.
Nearly three thousand immigrant children have been separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border this year alone, with no clear path to reunite them.
Families have been split up and children have been housed in make-shift holding centers with chain-link fence cages, cold and alone.
For months, the federal government has tried to locate the parents, and unbelievably, many may never be reconnected.
The government has failed to meet its own deadlines for locating parents and is now resorting to DNA testing to track down family members.
The chaos started early this year when the Trump Administration began a zero-tolerance policy of prosecuting every illegal border crossing as criminal.
Although it was a policy change, Trump and his Homeland Security secretary insisted it was Congress that was forcing this new policy of immediately separating parents from their children.
After weeks of bad press, Trump uncharacteristically caved and signed an executive order reversing his own order, but it only affected new cases, not the 3,000 pending separations.
And although a court order forced the government to reunite families, more than half of the pending cases have still not been resolved because the parents were either already deported or the feds can’t find them.
This week, the White House confirmed that 57 kids had been reunited.
That still leaves thousands of children living in some form of government detention without parents.
The traumatic experience of being hauled off, incarcerated, and warehoused without any family is cruel and unusual punishment for children.
But, still, except for rallies and protests over a few days, there has not been much public outcry over these immigrant children.
It now seems that the ill-advised policy was more of a political stunt that real immigration reform.
Most cases of undocumented immigrants are not actually criminal. Federal law only mandates criminal charges for illegal entry, or reentry, not merely for being in the country without proper documentation.
In 2017, an estimated 54 million people entered the US with proper visas, but 630,000 of those overstayed their visa and were then in the country illegally. That’s an administrative process, not a criminal one.
During the same period, US Border Patrol estimates that over 500,000 people entered the country illegally at our southern border.
That means that there were more legal entries that become unlawful than illegal entries at the border.
There is a real need for true immigration reform to deal honestly with the pressures of economics and social justice along the border, but using children as pawns is outright sinister.
Let’s talk about border security to keep our country safe from terrorists, but let’s not confuse that with the plight of refugees fleeing persecution in South American countries and seeking asylum in the US.
Let’s talk about the need for work visas, a path to citizenship, and Dreamers who arrived through no fault of their own.
And let’s talk about the thousands of children separated from their families, and the 10,000 that arrived here as unaccompanied minors and are still in the custody of the government or been forced into foster care.
But most importantly, let’s always talk about the fate of children in equal terms, not just the ones trapped in caves, in wells, or in rubble.
Right in front of our eyes, there are children in need of our prayers, our love, and our voices. They deserve to be treated with dignity and compassion, regardless of the color of their skin or the country from which they came.
We shouldn’t allow any children to be held in any cages for any reason.
That calls for an immediate rescue.