Trying to sort out the on the ground realities about the women and children who have been crossing the border from Central America from all the political spin and media hype is a seriously daunting task. Clearly this has reached a flash point on the short life radar scope of public attention. It has been christened as an "immigration crisis".
Immigration has been an ongoing phenomenon of American society since Europeans began arriving at the beginning of the 17th C. There has always conflict and debate about who should be let in and who should not. Periodically that debate rises to a level that gets defined as a crisis. We now have a new one. This time it is focused on children which gives it an extra emotional load.
Overwhelmed by an influx of unaccompanied minors who are fleeing violence in their home countries in Central America, federal officials are searching the country for places to house them and have been forced to scrap some proposed shelter sites in California, Connecticut, Iowa, New York and other states because of widespread opposition from residents and local officials.One question that arises is how much of this "grass roots" opposition is astro turfed. There is no question that Republicans in general and the Tea Party in particular are trying to make maximum political mileage out of the situation. It is the kind of low information excitement that much of the media thrives on. It doesn't take a lot set off the human herd instinct to conform ones opinions to what appears prevailing group think.
The politics of handling the wave of immigrants has grown toxic and holds perils for President Obama.
Some of the opposition has also bordered on the extreme. A few of the protesters who marched against a proposed shelter in Vassar, Mich., on Monday were armed with semiautomatic rifles and handguns. In Virginia, an effort to house the children at the shuttered campus of Saint Paul’s College in Lawrenceville caused such an uproar that federal officials pulled out, even though a five-month lease had been signed. Someone spray-painted anti-immigrant graffiti on a brick wall at a former Army Reserve facility in Westminster, Md., that was being considered as a shelter site.
Some cities have raised health and security concerns. Northeast of Oyster Creek, League City passed a resolution opposing any shelters from opening even though the federal government had no plans to do so. The resolution claimed that “illegal aliens suffering from diseases endemic in their countries of origin are being released into our communities.”
The political pressures about immigration are always most intense in the border states where new migrants make their crossings and where the largest concentrations of Latinos live. In Texas and Arizona there are political establishments that play to conservative white people.
Immigration is once again at front of Americans' minds with new Gallup polling showing a spike in those saying it is the "most important issue" facing the country. And that spike was led by border states.It certainly makes sense that the government would make an effort to distribute the refugees more evenly across the country. The urgency of the situation doesn't really give them time to undertake a careful process of community development and planning. It certainly fits the right wing agenda to portray the entire country as up in arms about the "crisis". The NYT article attempts to look under the hood a bit.
Fully 28 percent of respondents in these states (Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas) said immigration was the nation's top issue, up from just 10 percent in June according to regional breakdowns provided to the Washington Post. Concern jumped by a smaller 10 points in non-border states, from 4 to 14 percent naming it as the nation's top issue.
In the heated debates over the shelters, the voices of some of the people who live closest to them have been largely drowned out. Their opinions are occasionally more welcoming than the headlines and protests suggest.It would appear that the realities are a bit more complex than the headlines.
In the Dallas County town of Grand Prairie, officials had expressed skepticism about the plan to house hundreds of children at a former school. But their concerns were eased after Clay Jenkins, the county judge, and others went door to door in the school’s neighborhood and found that residents were overwhelmingly positive.
“I was blown away by their support,” said Mr. Jenkins, who is leading the effort to house 2,000 children at three sites in the county. “I don’t feel like we have to solve the border crisis for a terrified child to be shown some compassion.”