Mixed feelings on immigrant children

By Sam Shawver

The Marietta Times

sshawver@mariettatimes.com

More than 57,000 immigrant children, most from Central American countries, have entered the U.S. illegally since last October, creating a humanitarian crisis for border states like Texas. But one Ohio mayor, Nan Whaley of Dayton, has said her city would welcome some of those youngsters, which has raised concern from others in the state.

It’s a difficult situation, said Marietta resident Terrie Bain, 65, who teaches at Harmar Elementary School.

“It’s very sad. They’re coming in huge numbers, but many of these are just little children and this has to be a frightening experience for them,” she said. “As a parent and teacher I feel bad for them, but how can we support so many? I don’t see any way our communities could do that.”

Husband Ben Bain, 83, agreed.

“It’s a real mess. Their countries apparently don’t want them, so we should send them back,” he said. “But my question is, where are their parents?”

Oklahoma native Tara Priest, 32, now living in Marietta, said the situation is a moral conflict for her.

“I wouldn’t turn them away,” she said. “But I can’t imagine being a parent not seeing my kids again because I wanted them to have a better life in the U.S.”

Priest noted there are many legal immigrants from Mexico and other Central American areas who live in her home state.

“And they work hard to support their families,” she said.

Clifton Collins, 33, of Marietta, expressed some reservations about the immigrants.

“We should probably send them back to their parents,” he said. “We just can’t afford to bring more people into this country. And if we let them stay, everyone else will want to come here.”

Collins said he’s been out of work for 11 months now, and may have to move to Texas in order to find work in the oil industry there.

Aaron Cain, 34, also from Marietta, agreed with Collins.

“They’re probably leaving their countries for a good reason, and I hate to say it, but how are we going to take care of these children if they stay in the U.S.?” he said.

According to the Associated Press, Dayton Mayor Whaley had offered to shelter some of the immigrant children in her community.

But U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton and six other Dayton area leaders sent a letter late Sunday to President Barack Obama saying Whaley does not speak for the region in making her offer.

“We can’t even meet the needs of our community,” said Montgomery County Sheriff Phil Plummer who was one of those signing the letter.

Democrat Whaley said federal officials had asked for help and that there is a humanitarian obligation to help the immigrant children. Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley has also offered to help with the influx of children.

President Obama has asked the U.S. Congress for help in dealing with the unaccompanied children and others, mostly from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala.

Last week the U.S. House of Representatives approved a measure that would deport all immigrants who are in this country illegally. But the proposed legislation is expected to go nowhere in the U.S. Senate.