Politicians grapple over immigration issues

Baltimore County is at the center of the debate over housing unaccompanied children who fled violence in Central America.

Politicians in Washington, especially Republicans, are deadlocked over crafting comprehensive immigration reform.


But the more immediate problem is a very human one: what to do with the 57,000 Central American children who made that perilous 2,000-mile journey?

Some nitwits in Carroll County had an answer: spray paint a hostile, misspelled message — "NO ILLEAGLES HERE" — on a former Army Reserve building considered as a possible housing site.

The response among Baltimore County Republicans hasn't been receptive, either.

Congressman Andy Harris made it clear he will fight placement of these kids in or near his district.

Harris, though, can't stop Catholic Charities from placing 50 fleeing children at a secluded Timonium facility, St. Vincent's Villa.

The site has vacant beds. Ironically, it was built 174 years ago as an orphanage for immigrant children.

You'd think local politicians would welcome this gracious humanitarian gesture.

You'd be wrong.


Outgoing Republican Councilman Todd Huff came up with a typical NIMBY response.

"We have enough issues and problems in our own back yard here," Huff said, adding "we don't need to take on other people's problems."

The less-than-generous councilman urged Catholic Charities to "stick with the work [it is doing] here."

Huff's likely successor, Republican Del. Wade Kach, jumped on the "we won't help" bandwagon by parroting the Republican Party line — this is "a federal problem, and they [President Obama and the Democrats] need to solve it."

Baltimore County Republican Del. Pat McDonough had a more extreme suggestion — erect tent cities on the border and deport the kids as soon as possible.

These aren't drug smugglers or gun-toting criminals but children who made the dangerous trek to the U.S. on their own.


Catholic Charities and other religious groups aren't willing to heed the Republicans' political rhetoric.

Instead, they are extending a helping hand — a fundamental Biblical teaching.

Pope Francis calls this a "humanitarian emergency." The first priority, he says, is protecting and caring for the children.

Housing 50 kids at St. Vincent's Villa isn't a permanent answer, but it gives the youngsters a protective, nurturing environment while their situations are sorted out.

What's wrong with that?

Gov. Martin O'Malley is pushing charities to create foster care housing in Maryland for 2,000 children.

The governor initially complained to the White House about placing kids in Westminster at a facility lacking security or running water — not to mention the animus in Carroll County toward "illeagles."

He was right.

There are far better ways to assist the kids, such as finding compatible, temporary housing near Washington or Baltimore.

Baltimore Archbishop William Lori calls this situation "a test of the moral character of our nation. This is not a time for political posturing..."

If only Baltimore County Republicans were listening.

Barry Rascovar can be reached at brascovar@hotmail.com. His political blog is politicalmaryland.com.