Turning away children at the U.S. border who are fleeing poverty and violence in Central America is cruel


By Albor Ruiz

The border children are persecuted people whose lives are in danger and who deserve all the rights and protections afforded to refugees and asylum seekers

Today, when President Obama and his usually unforgiving Republican rivals have finally found common ground in their eagerness to send thousands of terrified Central American children back into the black holes of poverty and violence they barely escaped from, it is worth remembering another -and very different-exodus of innocents.

Quaintly known as Operation Peter Pan, it shows that Washington has not treated all children’s migration movements -or all children, for that matter-the same way. Peter Pan was one of the largest airlifts of unaccompanied children ever: 14,000 Cuban boys and girls -as innocent as the Central American kids who cross the border without company–were sent to the U.S. between 1961 and 1964.

But while today the President, the same Congress people who refuse to fix the broken immigration system, and some angry, compassionless townspeople callously demand that 52,000 defenseless kids be immediately sent back to Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Mexico –countries ravaged by drug cartels and murderous gangs that will force the children to join them or be raped, tortured or killed– the Peter Pan boys and girls fared much better: they did not endure one day of hostility or one episode of contempt. Actually, no self-serving politician or irate townspeople ever demanded they be shipped back to where they came from.

The irony is that, contrary to the Central American kids, the Cuban children were never in danger of being routinely raped, tortured o murdered in their homeland. The entire Peter Pan operation was an invention of the U.S. State Department purely for Cold War propaganda purposes. It played on fears that the Cuban communist government would do away with parental rights.

The whole thing was based on a lie bolstered by a bogus “law” doing away with parental rights that was printed and widely distributed in Cuba. The idea was to frighten parents into sending their children on a one-way trip to a foreign land. The Peter Pan kids became living testimony of the heartlessness and immorality of using children as political or ideological pawns.

Much more heartless and immoral is the lack of compassion, and the outright rejection and hostility, with which the border children are being treated by the White House and Congress although their horrifying plight is nobody’s invention, but the desperate reality of their young lives.

When dozens of townspeople backed by the rabid anti-immigration Minutemen go out to the streets of Murrieta, CA. in a wild protest to stop a bus carrying frightened, powerless children -children, for goodness sake– from coming to their town seeking refuge from violence and shelter from misery, one has to wonder what kind of world are we living in.

Let’s not forget that it is America’s insatiable appetite for illegal drugs that fuels most of the brutality in those countries that is making thousands of its young people run for their lives.

The Central American children’s tragedy is not some propaganda ploy and, no matter what politicians want us to believe, it is not just another act in the immigration reform comedy of errors. The border children are persecuted people whose lives are in danger and deserve all the rights and protections afforded to refugees and asylum seekers.

For Obama to consort with the worst people in Congress to change the rules in order to expedite sending these innocents back into a life of unspeakable violence and abuse, would label him forever as the worst president in history on immigration matters. And deservedly so.