Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A response to an immigration crisis

Immigration is a big issue in the world at the moment. There are debates happening in Australia as boats approach from Asia, in Europe as they come from North Africa, and in the Mexico/USA border region as a new crisis emerges.

In the next year, it is estimated that around 120,000 unaccompanied minors (under 18) will cross the USA/Mexico border illegally. Most of these kids will arrive in Texas and Arizona.

The sending / smuggling / paid transit of unaccompanied minors has gradually been increasing in the last 5 years, and although next year's numbers are much higher, the national profile of those coming is also changing. Numbers of children coming from Mexico are dropping, while those coming from Honduras and El Salvador are increasing.

The causes, responses and repercussions of this crisis are deep and massively complex and there are plenty of opportunities for political posturing and point scoring. But some comments are also displaying a sad depth of selfishness and lack of compassion.

Writing in the Dallas Morning News today, opinion writer Mark Davis argues(and I paraphrase) that the flood of illegally arriving children needs to be turned back, because if they are not, it means a whole lot of kids who don't speak English will end up sitting next to your child in class, and that of course, means your child's grades will be dragged down because the teacher will be too busy helping the new kid.

So kids who are from families so desperate that they send them on a long, dangerous overland journey to escape poverty, violence and civil war are to be denied a chance because it means our children might slip in their grade point average.

I might be doing Mr Davis a dis-service, but to me that sounds like "family values" and "the things that we hold most dear" being used as a cover for racism.

Who knows Mr Davis, if our children end up sitting next to a new immigrant at school, they might learn some words in another language? They might get an insight into another culture? They might learn how to help people? They might learn that they and their grades are not the centre of the universe.

The verse "Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves" (Phil 2:3) comes to mind.

As I read Mr Davis' column, my own family came to mind. We've sat on both side of "the kid who doesn't speak the language" fence.

A few days after arriving in Mexico, with no Spanish, our kids started going to a 100% Spanish speaking school. They were the kids who the teachers had to give extra attention to. They did, we are thankful and now our kids speak beautiful Spanish.

One of the reasons the school did such a good job is that they have a policy of helping special needs kids. Every class has a couple of kids in it that need extra help. Kids with Downs syndrome or physical disabilities are members of ever class. And you know what? Everyone wins. Especially the kids who give the help. They learn to help, they learn to care, they learn patience, they learn to look after people as people. I like that.

The school's average academic performance is lower because of this policy. I don't care about that.

What I care about is that one of our girls has a very deep friendship with a profoundly disabled boy in her class. We've had him over to do puzzles, to have dinner and it is a joy to see how our daughter cares for him. She's learnt to treat him as a friend, a person. That's more important than her academic average.

Immigration, illegal immigration, refugees, borders - they are complicated issues - very complicated issues. But they are people. We need to care for people, and we need to learn from people, rather than letting our selfishness dominate policy.


Francisco Astorga said...


Anthony Douglas said...

For some mysterious reason, Outlook's RSS service seems to have stopped delivering your posts to me...and then equally mysteriously, five just turned up now.

This one was the first I've read, and I'm really glad Outlook gave it to me. That's a great testimony about the school - and your kids!