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Undocumented minors are victims, not statistics

The true measure of a society is how we treat the most vulnerable members, and the immigration crisis in Texas shows how we come up short.

Thousands of unaccompanied children, mostly from Central America, are crossing the U.S. border and are being detained in the midst of what politicians are calling an immigration crisis.

We should be ashamed

While the right and the left sling partisan barbs at one another, 70,000 minors are expected to cross into U.S. territory this year alone. Most of them are teenagers but some are 5 years old and younger, and many of them are being caught and detained by U.S. border guards.

President Obama asked Congress for $1.4 billion to deal with what he calls a humanitarian crisis, and he is absolutely right in doing so. Children are being held in deplorable situations, such as being housed in empty warehouses — possibly even an abandoned Walmart on the outskirts of a bustling suburb in my old hometown.

In other words, it’s shameful.

They’re scared little kids, not cattle

Some, like Texas judge and democrat Clay Jenkins, are working on solutions that take into account the reality — these kids are people, not statistics. They are the most vulnerable among us. These children enter our country without adult support and unable to speak English. They are bewildered, lost and being shuttled from place to place, where they are greeted with ire and disgust. These little kids are suffering.

No matter where you stand on the issue of immigration, treating children like cattle is reprehensible.

Even an 8-year-old knows better

Jenkins is actively seeking locations in Dallas where up to 2,000 of these kids could be sheltered. He says in an interview with Mother Jones that he was reminded of their vulnerability by his own 8-year-old daughter.

“She explained to me, ‘But daddy, these aren’t people, these are children.’ So that stuck in my mind, and I decided that this is something that couldn’t wait. We had the capability and the capacity in Dallas County, where there’s 2.5 million people. We have buildings that are vacant right now, and I know that our community has compassion. So I decided that there’s no good reason not to help these children, and that it’s time to stand up for these children.”

Jenkins visited an immigration detainment center near the border between Texas and Mexico and saw toddlers crying for their mothers, siblings separated and placed in holding cells. He saw kids with dirty faces, body odor and “zoned-out” looks in their eyes. Children were weeping quietly in corners while border patrol agents changed dirty diapers.

In other words, he saw an internment camp, filled with kids. Is this the road we want to go down?

If this was happening somewhere else in the word, we’d be horrified

The American Academy of Pediatrics released a statement calling for “immediate and sustained action from the highest levels of government.” The statement reads, “We must remember that these are scared, vulnerable children, many of whom have been victims of violence, and they need our compassion and assistance.”

It shouldn’t be so hard to see these kids as all of our kids. We can do better.

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