Kyle Wingfield

Political commentary and opinion from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's conservative blogger

When admitting lots of immigrants isn't the compassionate thing to do

Opponents of tighter border control often cast the debate as one about compassion: Either you're for letting people enter our country any which way because that's the compassionate thing to do, or you're a jerk/bigot/misanthrope for wanting to keep them out. This argument is an actual example of an often misused phrase, "begging the question": It starts from the unproven assumption that letting immigrants flood into our country is in their best interests. It's compassionate because it's compassionate.

That's hardly the case, as a deeply troubling Senate report on the Central American children who have crossed the southern border since 2011. A six-month investigation led by Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, found many of these children were taken in by human traffickers and abusive adults because of the failures of federal agencies. Portman's report detailed only a few dozen cases. But it found such systemic issues -- for instance, in more than 95 percent of cases from 2013 to 2015, according to the report, federal officials failed to meet the sponsors of child immigrants or visit the homes where they were to live before placing children -- that these likely are only the tip of the iceberg. The examples it did detail are bad enough, as you can see in these summaries by the Washington Post :

"For example, one Guatemalan boy planned to live with his uncle in Virginia. But when the uncle refused to take the boy, he ended up with another sponsor, who forced him to work nearly 12 hours a day to repay a $6,500 smuggling debt, which the sponsor later increased to $10,900, the report said.

"A boy from El Salvador was released to his father even though he told a caseworker that his father had a history of beating him, including hitting him with an electrical cord. In September, the boy alerted authorities that his father was forcing him to work for little or no pay, the report said; a post-release service worker later found the boy was being kept in a basement and given little food. ...

"One defendant, Aroldo Castillo-Serrano, 33, used associates to file false applications with the government agency tasked with caring for the children, and bring them to Ohio, where he kept them in squalid conditions in a trailer park and forced them to work 12-hour days, at least six days a week, for little pay. Castillo-Serrano has pleaded guilty to labor-trafficking charges and awaits sentencing in the Northern District of Ohio in Toledo.

"The FBI raided the trailer park in December 2014, rescuing the boys, but the Senate investigation says federal officials could have discovered the scheme far sooner.

"In August 2014, a child-welfare caseworker attempted to visit one of the children, who had been approved for post-release services because of reported mental-health problems, according to the report.

"The caseworker went to the address listed for the child, but the person who answered the door said the child didn’t live there, the report added. When the caseworker finally found the child’s sponsor, the sponsor blocked the caseworker from talking to the child. Instead of investigating further, the caseworker closed the child’s case file ..."

These are hardly the scenarios portrayed by those who, in the name of compassion, rail against others urging caution or limits. One of the many reasons for controlling the flow of immigrants into our country is to ensure there are sufficient resources and opportunities to allow them to find the better life they seek -- and not these kinds of abuses.

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About the Author

Kyle Wingfield joined the AJC in 2009. He is a native of Dalton and a graduate of the University of Georgia.