Welcome to America, kids – eventually

By Steve Brawner
© 2014 by Steve Brawner Communications, Inc.

The question of what to do with these 50,000 Central American children sent to America alone by their parents to escape violence and poverty in their homelands – that’s a tough one. What do we do? Let some of them stay? Send them all home?

Eventually, we’ll be asking young immigrants to come.

We will do that because the decisions we have made, politically and personally, will leave us with no better choice. Let’s look at some statistics to see why.

In 1946, the World War II generation returned home from overseas and made a bunch of babies. From that year until 1964, 80 million baby boomers were born, and now they are beginning to retire in massive numbers and living longer than previous generations. Social Security’s framers did not plan for this influx of long-living beneficiaries when it was created. Life expectancy was 64 for a program that started paying benefits at age 65. There was one beneficiary for every 16 workers paying into the system.

Now there are three workers supporting each beneficiary. By 2025, the ratio will be 2.3 to one. The baby boomers themselves did not make enough babies, and then Congress messed it all up by raiding Social Security to pay for other programs.

This isn’t just a problem for the Social Security system. Entire sectors of the economy will be looking for workers. For example, the trucking industry, which pays pretty well, is expecting a deficit of 300,000 drivers over the next decade.

Could we just wait for people to make more babies who will grow up and fill the void? Not really. According to the Census Bureau, the median age for American females in 2013 was 39. That means a lot of us are too old to make babies. We’d have a real problem if it weren’t for the Hispanics already here (average age: 27).

Let’s review. We’ve promised benefits to an entire generation of retiring senior citizens, but we don’t have enough young people working to pay for those benefits, fill jobs in certain sectors, or make babies themselves.

We need an influx of young people – fast. Where could we find them? Obviously, south of the border and across the ocean.

At some point, regardless of all the political yelling, the United States will loosen its immigration laws. Those already here will be given a path to citizenship, or at least a path to something. The door into America will open wider. It might be attached to a wall, but the door will be open.

Is this the right thing to do? It won’t matter, because no one will have a better idea.

We ultimately will do this because we will have no better alternative as a result of the choices we have already made. Politically, we could have raised the retirement age enough to compensate for our increased lifespans. We have chosen not to do that. Our society could have fostered the expectation that the care of the elderly would be primarily the responsibility of their children. We decided, for many good reasons, to also rely quite a bit on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. We could have had a sensible immigration policy. We chose to squabble about it. As individuals, we could have had more kids. We, including my wife and I, decided that two were enough.

The choices we have made over the past 50 years, when we have had lots of alternatives, will dictate the choices we will make in the future, when we will have far fewer alternatives. So welcome to America, kids – if not now, then eventually.

6 thoughts on “Welcome to America, kids – eventually

  1. I think we should screen these kids very carefully and determine which ones we should find places for in the U.S. It should be unacceptable to send a child back if there’s a good chance it would be a death sentence. This process would take a lot of time and money, but we Americans would end up feeling that it was the right thing to do. I personally would help financially to give a child a better life here, but at age 70 I’m beyond wanting to be a foster parent.
    My true confession is that I’m a bleeding heart liberal who spent 44 years as a pastor helping people; that included a few years as president of a ministry in one of Tulsa’s poorest neighborhoods. To anyone who requests it I’ll send by email attachment a sermon on hospitality that I preached recently at All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Bentonville. Radical hospitality–that’s what I think the Bible teaches. I can’t imagine accepting another way.

  2. Good comments, Sandy. I’d be interested to hear your perspective on this question: What if by accepting some kids, it encourages more parents to send their children on this perilous journey, and they die on the way?

  3. Steve, let’s look at the big picture. I just accessed data from the United Nation’s High Commission for Refugees. Their most recent data is from the end of 2011 at which time 45.2 million people across the world had been forcibly displaced from their homes and become refugees. The countries that are hosting the most refugees are Pakistan, Iran, Germany, Kenya, Syria, Ethiopia, Chad, Jordan, China, and Turkey. Pakistan has 1,638,500 refugees, and it ranges down to 267,100 for Turkey. The U.S. is a little below Turkey. This is a mind blowing problem all across the globe, and the U.S. is but one of dozens of key players.
    We can’t accommodate every person who wants to come to our country even for legitimate reasons. But we can’t turn our backs to our neighbors who live outside our borders either. We’re the human race, and we’re all in this thing together. Somewhere there’s a solution; we know it will be hard and costly–but not as hard and costly as what these poor people have experienced!
    I’m old enough to remember the influx of Cubans who came to Tulsa when I was a student at TU in the early ’60s. Another wave of them came to Ft. Chaffee in the ’80s where I served as a U.S. Army chaplain. I also remember the Vietnamese who flooded into Oklahoma in the late ’70s; some of them were housed at Ft. Chaffee for a while. We got thru all such migrations in pretty good shape, and those who came have made as good contributions to our nation as the folks who were already here.
    Let’s remember that these children are refugees, not criminals. Some have already died on the way and more will undoubtedly die in future treks. One of the few things we Americans can do about that is reduce our huge demand for drugs that feeds this problem.

  4. Thanks for sharing, Sandy. That was good information, particularly about the refugees. Can’t help but notice that most of those countries aren’t exactly democratic paradises. Please keep in touch.

  5. Ending the failed “War On Drugs” would reduce a lot of the turmoil that U.S. government policies have caused in Central America.

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