The immigration situation at our country’s southern border is a genuine crisis, and Nebraska ought to help.
Americans have long argued over immigration policy and no doubt will continue to do so even if Congress were to break its intransigence, but the undeniable fact — the unsettling reality — is that, right now, the number of these vulnerable children has far surpassed the ability of federal facilities to properly meet the need. Nearly 19,000 children and teenagers traveling without a parent have recently crossed the U.S. border.
Some Americans act as if the U.S. government can simply push those children, most of whom are from Central American countries, across the border into Mexico, “solving” the problem. In reality, U.S. law now applies to these young people; they are in the federal immigration system. Each is entitled to a hearing to determine if they qualify to stay as a refugee.
Although addressing the situation is primarily a federal obligation, it’s reasonable that the Biden administration has asked state governments to house some of the children. The term “crisis” by definition means that extraordinary measures are needed. And this is a crisis.
Another term applies to this situation: “God’s children.” It’s a phrase that acknowledges the humanity of every boy and girl. It’s a phrase that points to society’s need, as much as possible, to take action when children, through no fault of their own, fall into a threatening emergency.
God’s children are at the border, and they’re suffering. Nebraska, along with other states, should step forward to help.
Gov. Pete Ricketts has said no, citing his fundamental disagreement with Biden’s immigration approach. The governor’s quick rejection of the federal request contained ironies. The official statement from his office says, “Taking on this crisis, which was created by President Biden, would also shift Nebraska’s focus away from managing our foster care system and Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Centers.”
A Nebraska foster care system, that is, soon to be under investigation by the State Legislature over a bungled contract for care of children in Douglas and Sarpy Counties. And a youth rehabilitation system, under Ricketts’ watch, that fell into crisis several years ago and has had to make extensive changes since to stabilize.
Nebraska shouldn’t be churlish in the face of this immigration situation. It’s bad enough that Nebraska is the only state that denies unemployment benefits to workers covered by DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). Every other state provides the benefits because those states recognize, first, that the workers have earned them and second, that the economy has suffered an extraordinary shock from COVID. Yet, Nebraska chose to stand alone. It was a needless, extreme gesture.
If states step forward to help address the border emergency, such action will lessen these children’s suffering. The cause is worthy. Nebraska should do its part, especially when Nebraskans have so much love and generosity to give.