reflections for independence day central american child refugees and our american conscience

I’m in my backyard for the 4th of July holiday. I cook hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill while my girls swim in the small pool we set up for them. They are wearing brand-new stars-and-stripes bathing suits that my 8-year-old made me buy for them.

My family and I have worked hard and gone to school to give ourselves the chance to live in a semi-rural area. I wonder what it would take for me to save hundreds of dollars and willingly pay a stranger to take my kids thousands of miles away, alone, to another country, where I’d probably never see them again. It would have to be something terrible that you couldn’t make up. They would have to be in clear and immediate danger, the kind of danger that would kill them even if I gave my life to save them.

I can think of very few situations where this could happen. Almost no Americans can. We live in a country where most of the time we trust the military and the police to keep us safe. Most of the time, we feel good about how crimes are punished, how criminals are caught and taken out of society, and how property is protected. Most people in America don’t worry that a group of thugs could break into their homes and kill their families without being widely (or at least locally) condemned and called out for justice. Our lives matter here.

Then again, we don’t live in Central America, and because we live in the first world, we can’t understand why hundreds of families are making the hard decision to send their children, some of whom are younger than my 8-year-old daughter, North through wilderness and desert, through war zones and drug cartel controlled areas, for a chance at not a better life, but at life in its most basic form.

These kids are not here to steal anyone’s job or a piece of the U.S.’s “entitlement pie,” which is getting smaller and smaller. They are not here to use a twisted version of the Dream Act to their advantage. They have to run away to save their lives.

It is well known that these kids are trying to get away from violence. The Pew Research Center talks about how gangs are making people afraid and killing thousands of people for no reason. Honduras is still the most dangerous place in the world.

This violence is a direct result of what the US has done over the past 100 years. Don’t forget about the Iran-Contra affair. Well, the “Contra” part isn’t talked about much, but it’s part of a pattern of direct and violent intervention in the countries where these children come from.

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