Accepting refugees

AP Photo/Marco Ugarte

If you follow the news at all, there’s no way to avoid hearing about what some are portraying as a grave threat to our country – an “invasion” by a caravan of “dangerous criminals” with plans to “attack our borders”. The claims are that there are “ISIS” “terrorists”  who are “unknown Middle Easterners,” “hardened criminals” and “very tough fighters” who are “bringing smallpox” and have intentions of spreading mayhem. Tens of thousands of military troops have been dispatched to the border to quell this “insurrection.”

Cooler heads realize that the caravan – many hundreds of miles from our border – is composed of, at most, a couple thousand people, mainly from Honduras. For these mostly women and children, many with nothing but the clothes on their back – shoeless, even – things are so bad in their home countries that they are willing to risk the trip on foot of thousands of miles in order to seek asylum in the United States from the violence, poverty and starvation in their homeland. And only a small fraction of those who set out will actually finish the arduous trip.

Whether you believe the hysteria or not, it is a crisis – a humanitarian crisis, not a military one. And your view of the situation as an American citizen is either that we must keep them out at all costs, and tear their families apart if they do breach our shores – or that we as a society must provide them refuge and comfort, and a place to grow, build a life, and be safe from want and fear.

I’m reminded of this as a reader of the Ask Andy column at The Net Commissioner website. Andy, the pen name of a long-serving Unit Commissioner in the Boy Scouts of America, answers questions from readers, often on sticky topics in their units. One of the most frequently occurring situations is discord between a Scout (or his parents) and the Scoutmaster or other troop adult leaders. Many times, what Andy likes to call “tin-pot dictators” ruin the Scouting experience by imposing their own requirements, blocking Scouts from advancing, denying or reviewing merit badge completions, and usurping the role of the youth leadership. Andy’s advice, generally, to those in situations such as these is to “vote with your feet” and seek and find a troop that “gets it right.”

If you’re a reader of this site, or of Andy’s, you most likely are one of those who “gets it right,” or at least is trying to. And as a result, you one day may find yourself “invaded” by outsiders – Scouts who are looking for a better troop experience than they were getting before. Perhaps they had an experience with a stubborn Scoutmaster who refused a Scoutmaster conference for any of a multitude of reasons – too young, wasn’t ready, doesn’t measure up, can’t tie a sheepshank. Or they lacked the opportunity to lead, or volunteered for a position of responsibility only to wither on the vine without support and guidance, then was held accountable for failure.

We must welcome and treat with care and kindness these Scouts who come to us out of frustration with their current situation. Just as it is an unimaginably difficult choice to leave your friends, family and familiar surroundings and travel thousands of miles in search of a better life, it’s not easy for a young person to put the familiar faces of Scouts and adults behind him and try to fit in to a new troop, sometimes in a new town, with new faces and new ways of doing things.

If you get a knock on the door, a phone call, or a visitor at a troop meeting, extend the friendship of Scouting. Your warm welcome will be rewarded with a new Scout with the motivation to forge a better experience for himself and for his troop, and you’ll know that you did the right thing for this person’s future.


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4 Replies to “Accepting refugees”

  1. A Scout is Obedient, too… we have existing laws to welcome folks that seek to join this great nation. This “caravan” is welcome to wait at the gate until they can be processed according to the laws of our land. They were offered asylum in Mexico and most refused.
    Yes, this is a humanitarian crisis, and their basic safety, shelter, and medical needs should be addressed, but we do need to respect our laws and the millions of Americans that have immigrated to our shores properly.
    Imagine if, in the early 1900s, a convoy of ships, full of people seeking the new opportunities the USA offered, bypassed the ports of entry like Ellis Island, and instead tied up to unsuspecting piers in Virginia or Florida, only to storm the docks on arrival.
    Yes, we need to be kind and helpful, but we have to adhere to the policies and laws we have in place to keep everyone safe and protect all involved while keeping the solution equitable and fair.

  2. Frank,

    So you are now turning your scouting site into a soapbox to promote the political viewpoint of people of a certain political outlook about a current political position. You have just lost much of my respect for you, and I will probably not be able to recommend your articles to fellow Scouters. Why did you do it?

    There is a place for political promotion, and this is not it. Scouting has been set up to be a non-political organization, with the intent of teaching the young men in our charge how to make their own decisions in all aspects of life. We promote learning about the political process and we promote expressing our desires through the vote.

    You did not even present the Honduran caravan issue in a neutral manner, giving facts about both sides of the issue, but used your language to lead the reader to a conclusion that is not settled. If you desire to tow the party line, then please state clearly up front what your political persuasions are, or just stay our of the political realm completely, and just do Scouting. I would rather go to CNN or to Fox News to get my propaganda, Thank you.

  3. Yes, we should be humane and just let them all in and place them… in your neighborhood? You are willing to help them, aren’t you? For this important crisis, we can ignore our immigration laws…can’t we? Who cares if we disrespect all those who have waited in line patiently for the privilege of being a US citizen? Yes, let them all in, like Germany. They don’t have any problems with recent immigrants, do they?

    Frank, I totally agree with Allen Green. You’ve lost a reader in me.
    Adios.

  4. It was not my intention to make a political statement; rather, I was using a current news event to relate a situation we might encounter in our units. You may choose to view it as a political statement; that’s up to you, and it does not alter my efforts to inform and inspire my fellow Scouters. While the Scouts coming our way aren’t in physical danger in the units they’re coming from, they should be allowed to enter our “border” and apply – in our case, for membership rather than asylum.

    Upon re-reading the article, nothing was factually incorrect except for the terms I placed in quotation marks in the first paragraph because they are provably false. (The original post had “caravan” in quotes; I removed the quotes because the group of people is, in fact, a caravan.) And the article did not advocate breaking the law; the refugees must appear at an official port of entry in order to seek asylum. If they cross illegally, then of course they are violating the law and must be dealt with accordingly.

    Our nation was founded by immigrants and asylum seekers. In declaring independence from Great Britain, the colonists took substantial risks to escape mistreatment by the government and sought a better life for themselves and their successors. America’s greatness was built by people coming from around the world to set up shop within our borders and contribute to our culture and economy. This action continues to this day and, in the opinion of many, it is a disservice and a danger to our great nation to adopt an isolationist stance. I live in a community that welcomes, and has been made richer by, immigrants from foreign lands. I choose to welcome and befriend them; it’s readily apparent, however, that many do not.

    As we do our duty to Country, we should remember the words of Emma Lazarus’s The New Colossus inscribed on the Statue of Liberty:

    “Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
    With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
    Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
    The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
    Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
    I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

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