[lg policy] Let's Change the Border Debate, for Both Humanitarian and Policy Reasons

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at gmail.com
Thu Jun 28 10:33:36 EDT 2018

 Let's Change the Border Debate, for Both Humanitarian and Policy Reasons
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By David North <https://cis.org/North> on June 25, 2018

For both humanitarian reasons and to defuse the current and heavy negative
spin on immigration law enforcement, the administration must move quickly
to be seen as both a benevolent entity as well as a police force. It should
go out of its way in an effort to change the terms of the current
conversation about the Central Americans.

Let's face it, the former family-separation policy is a terrible one on its
merits and is close to disastrous regarding broader efforts to enforce the
immigration law, most of which do *not* involve the breaking up of families.

Let's hope that after Judge Dolly Gee, who is presiding over the *Flores*
settlement, shoots down the president's executive order saying that a
previous administration accepted an agreement that children could not be
separated from their families for more than 20 days — as she is sure to do
— that the president does not restore family separation policies as a
bargaining tool.

My sense is that both the judge's decision and the president's resulting
reaction are all too predictable.

Let's turn to the policy of detaining whole families. When whole families
arrive illegally, it is absolutely essential to the enforcement of the
immigration law that they be detained. This, however, does not help the
image of the restrictionist position in the short run.

So the government should take a variety of steps to show that it is dealing
fairly, even imaginatively, with a detainee population that is fated to be
with us for many months, and perhaps a few years in some cases.

The suggestions in this posting assume that the government will do its best
to house the detainees, to hire more immigration judges, and to seek
changes in the asylum law that currently encourages people from Central
America to come to our southern border.

But all of this will take time, and meanwhile there is a large population
(idolized by parts of the media) that will be with us for a while. What we
do to, and for, them should show America at its best. But none of these
actions should encourage further illegal migration — it is a dicey balance
at best.

Everything being proposed assumes that most of the Central Americans will
have to leave — some perhaps to other countries — and that the United
States has done smart things to make that re-location as painless as
possible. The goal should be to equip the former detainees to become
successful inhabitants of a place other than in the United States, in most
cases their home nations. Some of our suggestions are made, frankly, with
the hope that these actions will lead to more positive press coverage.

We are also assuming that keeping the detainees detained will be expensive,
even without the actions we propose, and that cutting short their stays
will, on the other hand, save the Treasury many millions of dollars. It
will be far easier to raise money from Congress for these activities than
it will be to get billions for the wall.

This posting deals with health matters; others will touch on the education
of the children in detention, training some of the adults to be agents of
change after they return to their home countries, vocational training in
skills needed in the tropics, possible subsidized relocations of some to
third countries, and other detainee-related subjects.

*Health.* I suspect that this is a pretty healthy population. They were not
scooped up from refugee camps and flown here with governmental help; they
all had to make it across the length of Mexico on their own. This
presumably means that there are few badly disabled or very sick people
among them. But three health-related activities should be started as soon
as possible.

The first is a universal health *screening* by nurses and physicians, to
identify current and potential problems, and to record these data both on a
government-run electronic database, as well as on a series of cards and or
discs that can be enclosed in waterproof envelopes that can be worn around
people's necks. This process will identify any diseases that the detainees
may be carrying with them and to put them on track for needed treatment.
Some screening like this already takes place, if not the suggested ways of
recording the results.

The second step is a series of *vaccinations*, a set designed particularly
for people living in the tropics. Each of the shots should be recorded in
the health record systems outlined above. The vaccinations are not
mandatory, but the alternative would be immediate deportation for everyone
in the family. The president will be able to brag, truthfully, some weeks
or months from now that the detainees are by far the healthiest, or at
least the most vaccinated, of all Central Americans.

The third phase would be, in needed cases, *operations* for both emergent
and some ongoing conditions. These procedures, particularly emergency ones,
might well be the subject of press attention, of the United States as a
caring government. If, in some cases, the procedure is available in the
United States, but not in the country of origin, that should be noted.

We might also intervene — as the home countries had not done — in
non-emergency cases, such cleft-lip or club feet, in which not very complex
matters could be handled quickly, with or without publicity, and would
provide life-long advantages to the individuals. Efforts might be made to
recruit surgeons, nurses, and others to handle these matters as pro bono
efforts. (Similarly some of the vaccines might be secured from drug
companies willing to help, perhaps for a tax break.)

Some or perhaps most of what has been suggested above may already be in the
works, particularly for those headed to military facilities.

*This is the first of a series of postings on our government and the


 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com

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