In a letter to Governor Chafee, Rep. Peter Palumbo (D-Cranston) reports that he has “nothing but sympathy” for the immigrant children flooding our southern border. He apparently means that quite literally. And his sympathy extends only as far as telling his press liaison to type those words for him in a letter he, ahem, wrote to the governor. The children in question are apparently worth zero expense or effort beyond that, in his eyes.
So what, exactly, is his sympathy worth? And why does he bother to express it this way? The truth is that Rep. Palumbo appears to have a heart of stone, like so many of the protesters who have gathered this week to shout angry words at children fleeing violence in their home countries. (And, in one case, at a bunch of children on a bus taking them to a YMCA summer camp, but hey it was just an oversight.) Palumbo, however, wants to pretend otherwise by covering it up with pretty words. But pretty words alone never took care of a child, not one from Honduras, nor one from Cranston. When accompanied by tender care, pretty words can be a lovely thing, but when accompanied by a cold shoulder, they are just embarrassing.
I am, from time to time, impatient with people who imagine that there is no financial justification for good public policy. Care for the poor and disabled, attention to the youngest and most vulnerable children, being good stewards of the environment, cleaning up toxins, don’t have to be justified by weepy appeals to heartstrings. These are, more often than not, policies that easily cost less than the results of ignoring them.
But pointing out that a policy is not just the right thing to do, but also saves money, is a far cry from thinking that saving money is the only possible justification for public policy. There are times when the right thing to do costs money. That doesn’t mean it is not the right thing to do.
For a variety of reasons, a humanitarian crisis is in full swing on our southern border. It is not clear to me exactly what the cause is for the dramatic increase in unaccompanied children coming across the border, and it seems not really clear to anyone at this point. But it is clear to me that denying the existence of the crisis and denying that our nation — and our state — has the capacity to aid those children, is heartless and cruel. We are still among the richest countries on the planet. We are not talking here about deploying troops or air strikes or our navy. We are talking about feeding and housing children who seem to need that kind of help and are already here among us. If we can’t do that, then what kind of country are we?