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Last Updated: 27 June 2014
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Rogers: A humanitarian crisis? And then some.

By Ron Rogers
[Ron
Ron Rogers

SAN BENITO, June 27 - According to the Oxford Dictionary, the definition of the word refugee (ref•u•gee) in English is: A person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster.

According the website of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees: "The 1951 Refugee Convention spells out that a refugee is someone who "owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.

"Migrants, especially economic migrants, choose to move in order to improve the future prospects of themselves and their families. Refugees have to move if they are to save their lives or preserve their freedom. They have no protection from their own state - indeed it is often their own government that is threatening to persecute them. If other countries do not let them in, and do not help them once they are in, then they may be condemning them to death - or to an intolerable life in the shadows, without sustenance and without rights."

If one accepts the definition of Oxford Dictionary and guidelines on refugees as outlined by the United Nations, then we must believe the current crisis with immigrants coming from Central America is not just a humanitarian issue. What we have is a refugee crisis along our southwestern border.

The Rio Grande Valley of Texas has always been home to immigrants, but we have never seen such a massive influx of children and families fleeing the ever-increasing drug violence and human rights violations in their own countries. When we see over 35,000 immigrants per month arriving at our borders, how long does it take to figure out that we have a serious problem on our hands? As the situation has gotten increasingly worse many community-based organizations with limited funding are really feeling the pinch. From the media coverage, it would appear that the corporate nonprofits are looking to grab national attention (and federal dollars) to further exploit 'the immigration crisis'. The local community-based organizations have long-known that the region has always been short on assistance for immigrants and even shorter on federal dollars to help long term strategies such address regional poverty and illiteracy.

The recent surge in unaccompanied children coming across our borders is unprecedented — as many as 74,000 projected in Fiscal Year 2014 with no signs of the influx abating. Unable to make their case before an immigration judge and against a government attorney, many of these children can be sent home to dangerous, life-threatening situations. Did anyone ever read the United Nations declarations on human rights that states how the child in all circumstances is among the first to receive protection and relief? Does this Universal Declaration of Human Rights passed by the UN in December 1948 still apply? Or does it only work with those other refugees in those other countries? God help us.

The ever increasing surge of children and families has overwhelmed our local communities. While the international boundaries are ultimately a federal concern, the political posturing has managed to permeate every level of government. You can be sure once the media spotlight shifts to another part of the world, the lingering humanitarian issues will be left to our local communities to manage.

Instead of photo-ops, political posturing and finger-pointing, we need to ensure the safety of our residents, support the strained resources of our local community-based organizations, and protect the public health of everyone regardless of immigration status. Unfortunately the misguided responses thus far have not delivered relief to local communities or any coordinated effort as a response to the basic humanitarian needs of the influx of these refugees. Instead of solving the problem, we have seen a deluge of worldwide media attention with the politicians out front pushing their personal and political agendas. To date, little has been offered to effectively deal with any short-term or long-term problems of the region. It is amazing to me how some politicians can immediately become experts on the Valley when the only time they've set foot here is for campaign fundraising at one of their $100-a-plate VIP luncheons at a local country club.

And then there are the bodies in Brooks County. Recent media reports tell us of a series of mass graves filled with the remains of unidentified immigrants in a Falfurrias cemetery as anthropology researchers continue to exhume skeletal remains found in garbage bags. Thus far 52 bodies have been found.

June 2014 has been a long-hot month along the border in South Texas and the summer is only beginning.

Ron Rogers is a community activist. He lives in San Benito, Texas.

SAN BENITO, June 27 - According to the Oxford Dictionary, the definition of the word refugee (ref•u•gee) in English is: A person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster.

According the website of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees: "The 1951 Refugee Convention spells out that a refugee is someone who "owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.

"Migrants, especially economic migrants, choose to move in order to improve the future prospects of themselves and their families. Refugees have to move if they are to save their lives or preserve their freedom. They have no protection from their own state - indeed it is often their own government that is threatening to persecute them. If other countries do not let them in, and do not help them once they are in, then they may be condemning them to death - or to an intolerable life in the shadows, without sustenance and without rights."

If one accepts the definition of Oxford Dictionary and guidelines on refugees as outlined by the United Nations, then we must believe the current crisis with immigrants coming from Central America is not just a humanitarian issue. What we have is a refugee crisis along our southwestern border.

The Rio Grande Valley of Texas has always been home to immigrants, but we have never seen such a massive influx of children and families fleeing the ever-increasing drug violence and human rights violations in their own countries. When we see over 35,000 immigrants per month arriving at our borders, how long does it take to figure out that we have a serious problem on our hands? As the situation has gotten increasingly worse many community-based organizations with limited funding are really feeling the pinch. From the media coverage, it would appear that the larger cities within the region and the corporate nonprofits are looking to grab national attention (and federal dollars) to further exploit 'the immigration crisis'. The local community-based organizations have long-known that the region has always been short on assistance for immigrants and even shorter on federal dollars to help long term strategies such address regional poverty and illiteracy.

The recent surge in unaccompanied children coming across our borders is unprecedented — as many as 74,000 projected in Fiscal Year 2014 with no signs of the influx abating. Unable to make their case before an immigration judge and against a government attorney, many of these children can be sent home to dangerous, life-threatening situations. Did anyone ever read the United Nations declarations on human rights that states how the child in all circumstances is among the first to receive protection and relief? Does this Universal Declaration of Human Rights passed by the UN in December 1948 still apply? Or does it only work with those other refugees in those other countries? God help us.

The ever increasing surge of children and families has overwhelmed our local communities. While the international boundaries are ultimately a federal concern, the political posturing has managed to permeate every level of government. You can be sure once the media spotlight shifts to another part of the world, the lingering humanitarian issues will be left to our local communities to manage.

Instead of photo-ops, political posturing and finger-pointing, we need to ensure the safety of our residents, support the strained resources of our local community-based organizations, and protect the public health of everyone regardless of immigration status. Unfortunately the misguided responses thus far have not delivered relief to local communities or any coordinated effort as a response to the basic humanitarian needs of the influx of these refugees. Instead of solving the problem, we have seen a deluge of worldwide media attention with the politicians out front pushing their personal and political agendas. To date, little has been offered to effectively deal with any short-term or long-term problems of the region. It is amazing to me how some politicians can immediately become experts on the Valley when the only time they've set foot here is for campaign fundraising at one of their $100-a-plate VIP luncheons at a local country club.

And then there are the bodies in Brooks County. Recent media reports tell us of a series of mass graves filled with the remains of unidentified immigrants in a Falfurrias cemetery as anthropology researchers continue to exhume skeletal remains found in garbage bags. Thus far 52 bodies have been found.

June 2014 has been a long-hot month along the border in South Texas and the summer is only beginning.

Ron Rogers is a longtime community activist and financial literacy adviser in the Rio Grande Valley. He lives in San Benito, Texas.


Write Ron Rogers

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