Great words yesterday from Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-Maryland). Starting about 3 hours and 20 minutes into this video of yesterday’s hearing about the Obama administration’s US$3.7 billion request for dealing with unaccompanied minors at the border.
"When you’re talking to the children, you find out: why would a mother, making minimum wage, somewhere scrape together three thousand dollars—and you could imagine what it took to save that money—to send it to, essentially, a scoundrel, to bring her daugher or her son across the border? And to know the treacherous, dangerous journey that they’re going to do? If you will only risk that—the danger is so severe, we all heard these stories that are so wrenching, that we don’t even want to repeat some of them in public because of their poignancy.
"The fact is that, it’s because in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador the violence is so bad, that the violence of the journey—the violence of the journey is less, and the risk that they will take.
"And then to say, ‘We’re going to send them back!’ Send them back to what? The gang that tried to recruit a little girl and threatened the family that if the girls—two young girls—didn’t join the gang they would be killed, mutilated, or turned into something called ‘queens.’ I won’t even talk here about what that means. I could not bring myself to describe it. So what are we going to send them back to? It’s not like Juan Valdez is going to greet them at the airport with roses.
"I mean, I think we have to get a real strategy here to know why they left. Now, I’ve said repeatedly, and I will say this again: that I have felt that over the last decade we have fought four wars. We fought one in Afghanistan because of an attack on us. We fought one in Iraq that we— members voted for, I did not. Then we fought the cyber-war, which continues to be a significant threat. And I don’t minimize the threat of terrorism.
"Then I talked about the war at our border, but I was worried about drug dealers, I wasn’t worried about children. But the children are coming because of the drug dealers. So sure, we can talk about root causes and poverty, I don’t minimize that.
"But we have to really, now, I think we’ve got to focus on our hemisphere. I believe we’ve had three decades of uneven policy, in terms of looking at our own hemisphere and Central America. Senator Harkin knows about it, Senator Shelby, we come from a background that heard about the nuns that were assaulted as Maryknoll nuns. The assassination of Oscar Romero. War after war, brutality after brutality, and then, just when we’re ready to deal with it, some other thing turns our head and we’re off, running, putting on flak jackets, visiting some new issue.
"So I think we need to, in addition to all the other wars we have to fight or bring to a closure—and they’re significant, you know as Mr. Homeland Security, that there are a lot of threats to this country. But I believe that the threats of the children—the children are not threats. The children are coming because of the threat to the children.
"And I think that we have to meet the urgent needs here, and we have to then really focus on our hemisphere, and have a focused way that deals with the crime, deals with the corruption, deals with exactly where a mother will risk sending her daughter on a perilous journey because it’s less violent than what she would find staying at home with her grandmother."