To the Editor:
Note to the reader: In response to this site’s recent blogs about using Edwards AFB to temporarily detain migrant children, many commenters have insisted upon discussing unrelated aspects of immigration policy. I have argued that things like executive orders, border security and the execution of existing immigration law - while important - are irrelevant to the essential question: “Should we temporarily accept migrant children already in the U.S. to provide them with decent living conditions?” This piece will approach the Edwards AFB issue from that narrow perspective.
Let’s do a little “cost-benefit analysis” on the issue of accepting migrant children at Edwards AFB. I’ll define costs and benefits as those relevant to Massachusetts and to the local community.
Some say that, if the children come to Edwards, they will end up staying permanently, presumably starting in the Cape Cod foster care network. This is wrong because the process followed by the Feds to determine the final destination of a child doesn’t consider where he/she is held temporarily during processing. Each of these children will end up somewhere. Some will be deported, some will say in the U.S. permanently. But where they stay temporarily while that decision is made will not alter their final destinations. There is no local cost here.
Some say that local communities will be adversely affected by 1,000 children at Edwards. But, according to the Governor: The kids won’t leave the base, the Feds will cover all costs, and the public schools won’t be affected. In fact, once they arrive, locals won’t even know that the children are here. They’ll never see them. The only local cost may be the fact that space available to locals during emergencies like hurricanes may be affected by the presence of the children at Edwards. But overall, there is very little local cost here.
In fact, given what we know today, there will be almost no local costs.
There is a single benefit to accepting the children at Edwards: The humanitarian benefit. Children will be moved from badly overcrowded detention centers where they literally sleep on floors on top of each other to a facility where they are treated humanely. In short, the benefit is helping children.
To some, it will seem strange to include this non-tangible factor as a benefit. Neither the state nor the local community will receive a financial boost for instance. But here’s where that word that opponents dread so much comes in: Compassion. Caring people throughout the region will receive the satisfaction of doing a good thing. The satisfaction of helping their fellow man, and children to boot.
So, there are almost no local costs but by accepting the students we can help struggling human beings. To this writer, this is a no brainer: We should accept the children.
Before closing, however, let’s examine the question: “Should we accept the children at any local cost”? And there, the answer is an emphatic “No”.
Let’s say, for instance, that the Governor changes his approach and decides that, after the students are cleared medically, they will enter the Bourne School System. That would be completely unacceptable! Speaking for myself, this would change my tune from support to opposition in a heartbeat.
To use a less obvious example, let’s say that a processing change is made such that children who are not deported or sent to adult family members in the U.S. are placed in the local foster care network. Again, speaking for myself, this would probably cause me to drop my support of the initiative.
Whether or not we should accept the children at Edwards depends upon the costs to local communities. To people who possess that dreaded thing called compassion, helping children will always represent a benefit. But, local costs could outweigh that benefit. As of this writing, and knowing what we know today, there are almost no local costs so we should help the children. But, if the Feds accept Edwards, we should watch the emerging details like hawks. If things change and local costs appear, people like myself who support accepting the children at Edwards today should be willing to change their minds.
Dave Kent is a resident of Falmouth. Mr. Kent, who teaches high school on the Cape, earned a BS from Cornell University and an MBA from Duke University. Before changing careers to teaching, he had a long career in Accounting/Finance and Information Technology, largely in the Insurance Industry. He writes about wind energy in his blog Cape Wind Conversation.