CHILD REFUGEES: NC lawmakers must move toward compassionate response

Our nation was founded by immigrants. For centuries, our values have told us that taking in refugees in crisis is not only the right thing to do, it makes our country stronger in the long run. How we treat the child refugees coming to North Carolina this year is a moral litmus test of the highest order. Sadly, Gov. Pat McCrory and other state leaders' recent statements on the issue fall far short of meeting this standard.

It is deeply troubling when elected officials treat these children as a threat rather than as human beings in need of our care and protection. This should not be a partisan issue, and concern for refugee children crosses ideological lines.

Authorities estimate that 1,200 unaccompanied child refugees, primarily from the Central American nations Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, have been placed with a sponsor or relative in North Carolina since January–about 12 children for each of North Carolina's counties. To say we cannot accommodate this number of endangered children is shameful. To suggest that we care deeply about them—but argue for their immediate deportation back toward the violence from which they fled—is dangerous hypocrisy.

Consider the risks inherent in walking hundreds of miles, as a child, to cross a foreign border without any guarantees of help once you arrive. Now consider how bad the violence you must face in your home country must be if your parents have decided that sending you on this dangerous journey seems like the only option. This is about our values as Americans, and as North Carolinians. If we can’t welcome children in crisis, children who are fleeing drug-fueled violence, then we will fail a critical moral test.

Tell Gov. McCrory and elected leaders across our state to end the scare tactics about immigrant children and instead to move forward with policies that treat all human beings with dignity and respect.