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Watching a nation’s ideals turn to ash

Migrant families arrive at Good Neighbor Settlement House after being released from a local detention center and escorted by U.S. Border Patrol agents in Brownsville, Texas, on March 26, 2019. | Miguel Roberts/The Brownsville Herald via AP

How could this happen? I saw that question posted repeatedly on Facebook as the Notre Dame Cathedral in France was burning.

Terrible? Sure.

As awful as more than 100,000 people sitting in detention camps on the southern border of the U.S. with no place to go? Not hardly.

The United States of America no longer cares about people. They are pawns in political games.

Republicans use them. Democrats use them. And most of us who live in the U.S., well, we don’t care about them at all.

That’s why men, women and children seeking asylum in this country are made to live under bridges. That’s why the U.S. can take children away from their parents and send them far away, where they get “lost in the system.”

Doesn’t matter.

They shouldn’t have come here.

They’re criminals.

Terrorists.

They are people who walked 1,000 miles from Central America to escape rape, torture and assassination. They are running from drug lords threatening to enslave them.

This is a fact.

Our country has failed to deal with the immigration problem for more than a decade. I first became involved in the issue when the Obama administration tried to build a very expensive detention camp in south suburban Crete. It would have been run by a private company because there are profits to be made off the lives of immigrants.

That’s nothing new. It’s one reason people have flocked here from other countries. Wealthy corporations and rich people have always found ways to make money from them.

Opposition to the Crete detention center came from people who opposed allowing immigrants into the country (the facility would have been too plush) and people who fought for immigrant rights. Many suburbanites just didn’t want a detention facility in their backyard.

Many of us learned for the first time that immigrants awaiting deportation trials were being housed in jails along with criminals. I could point out that these immigrants had not yet been declared illegal. They were simply awaiting hearings. But such subtleties are pointless.

Most folk, like President Donald Trump, simply don’t care about the finer points of these arguments. Why should undocumented immigrants even get a hearing?

Well, for one thing, if it were possible to deport people without a hearing, you could be deported to Mexico. Why not?

That’s the point, you see. Everyone is entitled to due process, even illegal immigrants, because until there is a hearing — until evidence is presented by both sides — an immigrant isn’t illegal.

You say, trust the government. Are you a Trump supporter who believes the FBI spied on the campaign of the Republican president? Or an old liberal who remembers when the FBI spied on Martin Luther King Jr.?

The government cannot be trusted.

The human tragedy at our southern border is the government’s fault. Our fault. For decades, Democrats and Republicans failed to address the issue because they could use it for political purposes.

Our foreign policy in Central America is a dismal failure. Everyone admits that now.

Instead of proposing actual solutions, Trump proposes shipping the immigrants in detention to sanctuary cities, such as Chicago. That sort of thing pleases his base, like building a wall or snatching children from the hands of their mothers.

These are real people who are suffering. “We forget that,” I have heard TV analysts suggest. No. We know that. We just don’t care.

It is evil. Wrong. Sinful. But it’s smart politics.

How could this happen? Watching a fire consume a historic church is a sad sight. People cry and pray.

Watching your country put a torch to its own ideals is horrific. No one much cares.

Email: philkadner@gmail.com

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