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Claire McCarthy, M.D. Headshot

The Children at the Border Are... Children

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EL SALVADOR CHILDREN BORDER
YURI CORTEZ via Getty Images
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As I listen to the news coverage about all the unaccompanied minors coming from Central America, what I mostly hear is worry about how to house them, how to handle the legal ramifications, how to pay for them and how to stop them from coming across the border.

What about worrying if they are OK?

I get that this is an immigration problem, a legal problem and an outrageous logistical problem. But first and foremost, it's a humanitarian problem.

These are children. Children who have been traveling alone, or with shady people they don't know. They are coming to find their families -- or they are fleeing violence and poverty we can't even imagine. They aren't coming to take jobs away from Americans or as part of an immigration loophole strategy. They are coming for a better life -- but truly, can you be angry at a child for not wanting a life of violence and poverty?

I live in Massachusetts, and I couldn't agree more with Governor Deval Patrick who, as he spoke about his plan to bring some of the children to our state, framed it as a moral issue. "I believe that we will one day have to answer for our actions -- and our inactions," he said.

What we need to do, first and foremost, is take care of the physical and mental needs of these children (who are not, by the way, bringing in diseases as some people have said). To do anything less or different would be more than unkind. It would be fundamentally wrong.

We absolutely need to do something to stop this from happening. But that something shouldn't just be more walls and police and deportations. Whatever we do needs to address the reasons these children are coming in the first place. That's where our money and efforts would be better and more humanely spent.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has a webpage with updated news, recommendations and resources for those who are following the situation and those who want to help. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a webpage with resources as well, including answers to frequently asked questions from the Department of Health and Human Services.

Please. These are children.