I have long seen newspaper columnist and TV commentator George F. Will as a voice of reason, intelligence, and even brilliance among conservatives in the United States, but never so much so as after hearing his remarks on the Central America child migrant crisis this past Sunday on FOX News with host Chris Wallace.
In response to Mr. Wallace's question, "Is there a right way to deal with this problem?" here's what Mr. Will said:
"My view is that we ought to say to these children, 'Welcome to America, you're going to go to school and get a job and become Americans.' We have 3,141 counties in this country. That would be 20 per county. The idea that we can't assimilate these eight-year old criminals with their teddy bears (uh, he was being sarcastic) is preposterous. We can handle this problem is what I'm saying. We've handled what Emma Lazarus called the 'wretched refuse of your teeming shores' a long time ago and a lot more people than this. Long-term, the most effective legislation passed concerning immigration wasn't an immigration bill at all. It was Bill Clinton's greatest act -- passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which put the Mexican economy on the road to prosperity. We need to do something similar for the countries from which these children are fleeing, including the fact of trying to get Americans to quit consuming so much of the drugs that are imported from these countries."
Mr. Will's words were so eloquent, gracious, and thoughtful that they confirmed my belief that what divides liberals and conservatives on political issues is often less fundamental in nature and more about differences in degree or manner of expression. However he arrived at his position, Mr. Will has opted to take the high ground, while so many others in the United States have gone low. Yes, there are plenty of good reasons to deport the children and let the governments of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras deal with them. Not our problem, right? But Mr. Will has seemingly understood the desperate situations from which these kids come, and he determined that there's something un-American about just shipping them off.
Given some recent polling in the US, it appears that most Americans tend to sympathize. A poll conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute surveying 1,026 adults, for example, found that 69 percent felt the children should be treated as refugees and allowed to stay in the US if it's determined that it is unsafe for them to be deported back to their home countries. Twenty-seven percent view the kids as illegal immigrants and feel they should be deported immediately.
The issue of what to do with the tens of thousands of child migrants from Central America is a complex one to answer. A much easier question to answer is, "Would you deport these kids knowing that there's a good chance they would be hurt or killed within days or weeks of their return?"