Thursday, December 07, 2006

'Tis the Season to Be Child Smuggling

The holiday season is upon us and the instance of child smuggling is surging. The Office of Refugee Resettlement, which handles smuggled minors caught inside the US, shelters over 8,000 children a year. Those caught at the border, for example, the 218 caught in the past two months at Laredo's two bridges, are returned to Mexico.

When parents decide to illegally enter the US, most leave their children behind. These kids may be left with relatives for months, even years. But if the parents get established in the US - some income, a place to live - they then hire smugglers or pay friends or relatives back home to smuggle in their kids. The kids are not only subjected to harsh desert crossings, or being drugged and crammed into hidden compartments in vehicles, often with people who are strangers to them. They may be raped, sold, forced into begging or prostitution, or held in overcrowded and unsanitary "safe houses" until their parents scrabble together the remainder of their smuggling fees.

(Smugglers charge cash-in-advance fees to get them across the border and, if successful in getting across the border, then collect the remainder of the fee for transport to the destination, false documents, etc. Parents do not always have the second part of the fees ready, waiting to see if the first stage is successful.)

The Office of Refugee Resettlement says 65% of the illegal-alien children they shelter (at taxpayers' expense) are handed over to "undocumented" relatives in the US. In short, if you smuggle your kid into the States, the kid stays and citizens pay.

The Office of Refugee Resettlement is not the appropriate agency to handle smuggled children. They are aiding and abetting multiple crimes: smuggling, illegal immigration, child abandonment and neglect. These kids are not refugees, and should have no right or expectation to be supported by taxpayers. They should not be handed over to undocumented aliens - who knows who these people are? The kids don't - they may not have seen their parents in years, or were too young when abandoned to have any memory of the parents who abandoned them. They have been torn from the homes and relatives they know, torn from their community, their friends, their school chums, and sent off on a hazardous journey with known criminals to a foreign place where they do not know the language, the people, or even the parents who claim them.

Unaccompanied minors should be barred from entry into the US, except those over 16 who are legitimate foreign exchange students with a recognized international organization and will be living with a screened family for one school year. Any unaccompanied minor should be held in immigration facilities until their country of citizenship is ascertained, then turned over to that country's consulate for repatriation.

Parents will stop abandoning their children, then subjecting them to smuggling, when there is no way to expect their children can stay here at citizens' expense. It is totally inhumane to allow child smuggling, but parents will do it as long as they can get away with it.

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