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The stream of unaccompanied children crossing into the U.S. from the south has created a humanitarian crisis, prompting a request by the president for more resources. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has issued a statement standing by this request, stating that above all else, the needs of these children should be attended to during this difficult time.
Children, scared and alone
It's hard to imagine what happened to a child before she attempted to venture across the border of a foreign country. But the fact is, there has been a 99 percent increase in unaccompanied minors in the first eight-and-a-half months of fiscal year 2014 when compared to 2013. This is not just noteworthy... it's alarming. The ages of those apprehended at the border? These kids range from teens all the way down to toddlers. They are not always young men and women trying to venture into the U.S. — some are practically babies.
As you can imagine, authorities are scrambling to deal with this massive influx of children, most of whom are placed in the protective care of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). When you consider the thousands of children that are being served by the ORR, you can picture the enormous costs incurred for their food, shelter and health needs.
A definite humanitarian crisis
The AAP's statement is clear. "Pediatricians call on Congress to prioritize the health, safety and well-being of these children above all else, and to ensure that their physical and mental health needs are being met," it reads. "We must remember that these are scared, vulnerable children, many of whom have been victims of violence, and they need our compassion and assistance. As the situation evolves, pediatricians will continue to urge state and federal leaders to do everything in their power to protect these children."
A humanitarian crisis is defined as an event (or series of events) that threatens the health and safety of a large group of people. Natural disasters are one example. Wars are another. And thousands of children roaming the Southwest by themselves, attempting to gain entrance into the U.S., certainly qualifies as one as well.
Why should we help?
Some argue that there is a worry that they are bringing in disease, or they are unfairly increasing our tax burden and resources that our own citizens need. Many of these children are placed into foster care while they wait to be sorted through the immigration process. How fair is it that money is being diverted to these children, some may ask, when we have our own needs right here?
The thing is, this is happening right here. These kids are on our doorstep and they have a need to be protected and to be cared for, to be kept safe. While spending millions to aid in this crisis is not an attractive thought, how much better is the other option? Turning away these children, many of whom are from countries south of Mexico such as El Salvador, is simply cruel.
A humanitarian effort to keep these kiddos safe and healthy is absolutely the right thing to do. They are human beings and deserve to be cared for as such. Children venturing alone are at major risk of dying from exposure — or becoming victims of rape, kidnapping or other violence. How can anyone approve of measures that would put them at even more risk by turning them away?
They may not be your children, but they are children. They are frightened kids that may be injured or traumatized. Helping them, and those who in turn help them, is the right thing to do.
For a different perspective:
Read why one of our writers thinks deportation of the refugee children is a must >>