Let’s start with what we’ve learned — or should have learned — over the last few weeks if we removed the scales from our eyes.

Question: Which political party cares about the safety and welfare of immigrants and refugees?

Answer: Neither.

Question: How many U.S. presidents have struggled with the issue of how to handle children who cross the U.S.-Mexico border seeking asylum — either unaccompanied, or with their parents?

Answer: At least four — Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump. 

Question: Which major political party is to blame for the chaos and suffering now occurring on the U.S.-Mexico border — including the confirmed separation of at least 2,500 families?

Answer: Both.

Question: How likely is it that a change in administration, after 2020, will result in a radical improvement in how the federal government handles children and families at the border?  

Answer: Not likely. Presidents and cabinet officials come and go, but the underlying bureaucracy remains intact. When it comes to the official response to immigrants and refugees, nothing changes in Washington but the weather. 

Question: And what is the current crisis really all about? 

Why does this flood of children across our southern border keep happening? Is this all about desperate people fleeing the threat of violence in Central California — or is it about unscrupulous monied interests that are eager to take advantage of these desperate people with the political juice to get off the ground a policy of indefinite detention for minors? 

Answer: As they say in my work, follow the money. When you look at some of the cases of family separation and children in detention, there seems to be an aggressive push to get the kids into the foster care system and also to get them adopted. 

But until those arrangements can be made, these children must be housed somewhere — even if only temporarily. And there is a fortune to be made there as well. 

A private company is proposing to build a new refugee facility southeast of San Diego to house 500 children. At a similar facility in Texas, the federal government is paying as much as $775 per child per day to house refugee kids. At that rate, the owner of the California facility could earn — in one month — more than $11 million.   

We already know that every surge of immigrant children coming across the border represents a windfall for smugglers. But now it is becoming clear that there are plenty of people on this side of the border who are also profiting from the misery being inflicted on children and families. And many of those people, you can be assured, contribute to the campaigns of elected officials — in exchange for favors down the line. 

So the next time you hear a hard-nosed politician talk about dropping the hammer on undocumented immigrants — including children, ask yourself: Who is paying for the hammer?   

I spend a lot of time trying to clear the fog being generated on both the right and the left. I can’t express what I think until I know what I’m seeing. 

Conservatives know what President Trump is doing at the border is atrocious, and the fact that he is doing it as a deterrent is unnecessarily punitive. So they’re eager to deflect attention away from the White House and toward the heavy-handed actions of the Obama administration — which they claim were even worse because of the large numbers involved back then. 

Liberals insist that Trump alone is to blame for the family crisis on the border and claim that a new sheriff brought with him a new policy. 

They’re also dodging the accusation that Obama was just as bad as Trump by claiming first that Obama didn’t divide any families before conceding that he may have divided some and then finally admitting that he may have divided many.

With all the finger-pointing, I needed unequivocal straight talk. No hedging, no parsing. Just a dose of moral absolutism.  

I got it thanks to Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, who a few weeks ago drew a line in the sand during an appearance on CNN’s “Cuomo Prime Time.”

“If they want to take a baby from the arms of his mother and separate the two, that’s wrong,” Cardinal Dolan told host Chris Cuomo. “I don’t care where you’re at, what time and what condition. You don’t have to read the bible for that. It goes against human decency. That goes against human dignity. That goes against what is most sacred in the human person.”

Those words impacted me profoundly. As a journalist, my mind soaked up the unflinching condemnation of evil. As an American, my soul was nourished by the revelation that I was not alone. And, as a Catholic, my heart swelled with pride.


Ruben Navarrette, a contributing editor to Angelus News, is a syndicated columnist with The Washington Post Writers Group, a member of the USA Today Board of Contributors, a Daily Beast columnist, author of “A Darker Shade of Crimson: Odyssey of a Harvard Chicano,” and host of the podcast “Navarrette Nation.”

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