The anger and bitterness being spewed at the unaccompanied, undocumented children streaming into the United States from Central America is appalling. Americans should be angry about our nation’s failed immigration policy and the leadership missteps that led us to this crisis—but they should find it in their hearts to show compassion to these children.
It is now more important than ever for us on the Upper Cape to heed these words since this national issue is now on our doorstep.
Camp Edwards on Joint Base Cape Cod is a candidate to become a temporary home for some of these undocumented immigrant children. They would be cared for here, in a more appropriate setting than jails or holding centers, while they await deportation hearings to determine if they are entitled to asylum. The federal government would pay for their care.
During a visit to Sandwich last week to meet with a group of young business professionals, Governor Deval Patrick said: “We are looking to try to make space available because I do think that it is consistent with the big-heartedness of the people of the commonwealth.”
The idea of welcoming these detained children into our region may give some of us pause but there are times in life when we are presented with a choice to either reach out a helping hand or turn our backs.
Do we stop for the person on the side of the highway with a flat tire or do we keep on driving? This is not a political issue. It’s a humanitarian issue. This is one of those instances when true colors shine—when either the best or the worst of ourselves is revealed.
During the past week, we have seen examples of both.
Among the “worsts” was the Bourne Board of Selectmen’s meeting on Tuesday, July 22, where the board took a stand against using Camp Edwards as a temporary shelter for the children.
Forgetting the human aspect of the situation, selectmen and residents alike worried that the town would be forced to accept the children into its schools and possibly even shoulder other financial burdens associated with their stay on the Upper Cape base. This came even after they were assured that the federal government would pay for the young detainees’ stay and that the children’s educational needs would be taken care of internally at Camp Edwards.
One member of the board, Linda Zuern, called the presence of the children an “invasion” of our country. Ms. Zuern also held a sign which read “Close our Borders” during a protest on Sunday, July 20, against hosting children on Camp Edwards. That protest was held at the Otis Rotary near the Bourne entrance to the base. About 20 people took part in that protest, holding signs with messages that included “Coming to Your Child’s School: TB, Lice, Scabies” and “Not In My Backyard.” This was another low point.
On the positive side of things, we were heartened to see more than 70 people gather on the Falmouth Green on Monday, July 21, to support the children. Their signs read “Let Us Welcome The Children” and “Compassion is a Cape Cod Value.”
That is the right message. This is a chance for us to show some kindness and compassion.
Let us set our fears aside. Let us think beyond ourselves. And let us forget about casting blame for now—there will be plenty of time for that once the children are safe and secure.