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Hundreds Of Illegal Immigrant Children Have Come To New Bedford

Immigrant children
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

We are truly facing some daunting challenges in this country that will define what kind of a nation we’ll be living in. The 60,000-plus illegal and unaccompanied children who have been pouring across the border since November is very much a local concern too. New Bedford, known as a destination in matters like this, has already received around 400 kids over the past couple of years and more are coming.

Will enough area families sponsor and care for these children? Will the cost of their upbringing come out of local taxpayer budgets, raising taxes higher than usual? With more non-English speaking children, will New Bedford have to hire additional bi-lingual school teachers? That’s a local budgetary question the City Council grappled with recently.

Will Washington send money with each child to cover the expenses of their needs, health and dentist care, food, daily necessities, clothing and shoes, transportation and more? That just scratches the surface. Or, as usual, will this be like an unfunded federal mandate?

With most of these children from Central America, under U.S. law, kids from non-contiguous countries cannot be turned back at the border, and what’s more, these children must be granted deportation hearings, adding to the cost and backlog of an already overloaded judicial system. That’s a separate story I’ll comment on in the near future.

In the meantime, the arrival of these children in New Bedford should trigger local, state and federal lawmakers to pressure the only one who can broker a plan, President Obama, to show some real leadership during a humanitarian crises and bring in the leaders of both parties the same way Ron and Tip did and come up with a plan.

Right now, intelligent folks around here are getting stuck on the gooey political fly paper of blaming Bush or the Republicans for this mess. That’s the kind of thinking that has stymied both Washington and Massachusetts politics.

This problem has many different components, from humanitarian to political and financial. If the solution is not handled with balance and reason, I see another exodus occurring in the future. Those who can will move away from places like New Bedford.

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