Davenport Mayor Bill Gluba has drawn scrutiny and (to be blunt) nastiness for announcing organizations in the Quad Cities will help care for a few hundred of the roughly 52,000 Central American immigrant children currently detained in U.S. border states.
The children — predominantly from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala — have arrived without adults and, due to law changes signed by President George W. Bush as part the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization of 2008, cannot be immediately deported.
“You can’t turn your back on kids, little children and tell them they must go back to Honduras and in many cases be killed. That’s wrong,” said Gluba, who is hoping the community will help care for some of the children while their cases work their way through an overburdened legal system.
Reaction to the initiative, Caring Cities Campaign, has been incredibly negative on news and social media sites.
“I am tired of the taxpayers being forced to support the wars in countries that have been fighting since Biblical times, taking care of children whose so called parents don’t want them but continue to breed, God Bless the children, but enough is enough,” one wrote.
Another said, “These illegals are riddled with diseases and have no business here!”
And another reader seems to be advocating for the children to be brought here and then placed in the river. “Put them on inner tubes and into the Mississippi with them. That’s how many got here so sounds like a legitimate transportation to get them home. River’s up so should be a fast trip back to ‘the mother land.’”
While I’d quote more, the truth is that my space is limited and I’d rather not share any more of it, but I will tell you that the three examples I quoted were not the most controversial posted.
Is it true? Have Iowans changed so much?
Only a year ago, former Gov. Robert Ray said he felt no qualms for his support of the relocation of Vietnamese. From 1975 to 1979, more than 8,000 Tai Dam were welcomed into Iowa.
“I didn’t wonder if I was doing the right thing when I helped the Tai Dam, I accepted that as fact and I’ve never been sorry,” Ray said in August 2013. “I thought, ‘how can we sit here with as much good as we have and let people die?’ I just didn’t think we could do that as Iowans.”
Ray expressed his thankfulness for being a part of the process, saying he felt it made “a difference.”
As the Tai Dam immigrants arrived, each had a sponsor, job and home.
“And now you come here and it’s 40 years later and you see good people who have been a positive addition to our community,” Ray said.
Although the Tai Dam had sent requests for help to every state in the union, only Gov. Ray and Iowans responded.
The Iowans of 40 years ago would have a difficult time recognizing the social media navel gazers of today.
Let the federal government fix the immediate problems with the immigration law that has created and acerbated this travesty.
Let the State Department form coalitions to stop the drug wars in Central America.
Let the welcoming hearts of Iowans and the compassion of our ancestors lead once again.
This column by Lynda Waddington originally published in The Gazette on July 12, 2014. Photo credit: Ross Franklin/Reuters