Child refugees versus Child Illegal Immigrants

Tom-of-the-coast-of-Maine-2It is a long way from Honduras to the US border in Texas:  approximately 1,200 miles.  It is also a hard journey, fraught with danger from bandits, child traffickers, unprincipled coyotes (smugglers), rugged terrain, desert heat, lack of food and water and one that cannot help be marked by the sense of dread that chills the heart of any child alone in the dark of night in a strange place.  What would prompt a child as young as 4 or 5 (some toddlers are reported) to undertake such a journey?  What would prompt a parent to either send his/her child off on such a trip?  Why would these children risk their lives?  Are they just migrating or are they fleeing.  If fleeing, what are they fleeing from?  Are they simply looking for a better life or are they “gone in search of refuge (safety) as the French root of our English word “refugee” implies?  Perhaps these guys are frightening them? gangs 2

Many of the children making their way from central America and especially

I think I would like to flee the murder capital of the world!

I think I would like to flee the murder capital of the world!

Honduras are fleeing the violence that surrounds them everywhere.  Both the United Nations and other Human Rights groups report that Honduras is one of the most violent countries on earth and that young children are at particular risk.  The Guardian reports that the murder rate in Tegucigalpa, Honduras 90.4/100,000–the highest in the world.  Other Central American countries from which children are fleeing en masse are not much better.

Honduras is a violent place.

Honduras is a violent place.

Children are fleeing alone without parents because both they and their parents are afraid.  The administration of George W. Bush recognized that these children fleeing from countries not contiguous with the U.S. were different from those entering the country undocumented from Mexico.  In 2008 President Bush signed the William Willberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Re-authorization Act. This statue required that unaccompanied minors who entered the U.S. from a non-contiguous Central American nation needed to be afforded a hearing to ensure that they were not the victims of child trafficking.  If a child was found to be at risk, he/she was to be resettled rather than deported.

Since the passage of that law in 2008, the number of unaccompanied children fleeing to the U.S. has risen sharply because these children could not be immediately deported, needed to be given a hearing–which typically took years to be completed during which time they could melt into general American society–and were from to time found to be at risk in their home country and granted asylum.

In short, because of a change in our law, Central American children and their parents saw the long arduous and dangerous trek to America to be one way of living a safe life free from the violence that threatened these children daily.  This influx of children at risk is not the result of anything President Obama has done or not done on immigration.

This crisis is the result of the brutality and neglect of those governments/societies in Central American who have failed to nurture and protect their precious children Honduras_childrenforcing them to face death in order to flee death and reach a better level of safety in the U.S.. Even our gun incident ravished schools, pale in comparison to the violence that surrounds and oppresses these young people.

Normal planned and managed immigration is one thing, and we could certainly do a much better job at that. But, responding to the cry of children, fleeing sex traffickers bandits and neighborhood gangs is quite another. Perhaps an embrace and some sort of sanctuary are called for while the conditions under which these children would otherwise live are addressed more directly by the offending countries with the assistance of their neighbors and richer nations like our own.

What are these young Honduran boys learning?

What are these young Honduran boys learning?

Again this situation is not about immigration.  This situation is about children fleeing for their lives and how you and I will respond to them in their time of need. 

Hobby Lobby: an argument against employer-based healthcare

Tom-of-the-coast-of-Maine-2The recent decision of the United States Supreme Court allowing closely held private for-profit enterprises to limit the medical benefits covered by insurance programs they sponsor for their employees on religious grounds points to one of the weaknesses of our employer-based national healthcare policy. Employer-based healthcare almost inevitably brings the right to freedom of religion into conflict with the right of citizens to healthcare on which the combined human rights of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” depend.hobby lobby

Freedom of religion and the right to healthcare are not inherently at odds. These rights are only at odds if the provision of one right prevents the free exercise of the other.  In a system in which private employers can be required to violate deeply held religious beliefs in order that others be afforded the right to healthcare, the argument that such an arrangement infringes on religious liberty has some merit.   At the same time, the argument that one person’s exercise of religious freedom burdens the right to healthcare excessively also has merit. In a pluralistic society, like ours, respect for widely differing points of view, both religious and secular, is an important characteristic that allows those who hold even diametrically opposed points of view to live and work together in peace avoiding the evils of theocracy, ethnocracy and other forms of divisive governance.

public safety 1One of the roles of government is the protection of the rights of citizens.  In the U.S., government has delegated the provision of health insurance largely to employers (with exceptions for veterans, the elderly, the poor and other vulnerable members of society).  Employers and employees make contributions to private healthcare plans (insurance companies) that provide healthcare coverage for generally accepted medical needs.This situation can put some employers, and maybe even some employees, in the position of having to contribute funds for medical needs (e.g., contraception) that they regard as offensive to their religious beliefs. Delegating healthcare to the private sector, inadvertently and unnecessarily places the provision of healthcare and the assurance of religious liberty in opposition to one another.

Removing the provision of healthcare benefits from the private sector would liberate business owners and employees from having to pay directly for health benefits that, although legal, are objectionable to them on religious grounds and also provide the basis for a healthcare benefit rooted in scientific and medical data and equally available to all regardless of religious belief.  No one would be forced to pay directly for a specific medical benefit.   Rather, healthcare would be funded through normal taxation (with or without co-payments at the point of service). Debate about the legality of a particular medical procedure would, of course continue, but at least public health itself would move from the private to public domain liberating individuals from any undue burden on their exercise of religious liberty while at the same time ensuring the public availability of all legal medical treatment. 

Public health would be funded like other public safety programs: fire, police,top-public-safety-degrees and numerous other programs that serve the commonweal.