Last week, I said the flood of children coming over our southern border has met with a mean spirit on the part of some Americans. I received a lot of email in response.
About two-thirds of the response was negative. You might think that's a lot, but actually that's a good day for a column on such a controversial topic. The criticism that resonated most with me was this: Instead of attacking people for their vitriol, why not address the substance? Why not present some practical ideas for solving the issue of 57,000 immigrants -- mostly minors -- showing up illegally in the United States?
So, I thought I would share some of the good ideas readers sent in. Here goes.
One man, who signed his email simply as Brian, said we should seal the border, and then concentrate on who is here. "If a legal relative resides in the United States, the child may go to that family. Anyone over 17 should be returned [to their country of origin]. All teens should be screened for gang affiliation."
Chris Vuille wrote to say that Mexico and Central America have "copious resources" to take care of their own, but what they lack is "the socio-cultural fabric to make good use of their resources, and that must change somehow." He suggested we take in the border children, educate them in America, and then repatriate them.
"They could constitute a kind of civilian cultural army with a goal of fixing their native lands!" he wrote. "Farfetched, perhaps -- just a brainstorm."
Another email came from Greg Blass, the retired commissioner of Suffolk County's Department of Social Services. He said the border crisis has diverted desperately needed attention from the legal immigration system. As a former New York State Family Court judge, Blass witnessed people relentlessly exploiting immigrants here illegally.
"This is one of the many unreported aspects of the miserable, insidious chaos resulting from the diminishing priority of legal immigration," Blass wrote.
Washington has been gridlocked for years on a path to citizenship and froze again last week over how to handle the border breakdown. So, Congress got out of town for vacation. It's not a solution.
Blass thinks that restoring the dialogue on the importance of legal immigration can "guide these immigrants on a path of language and working skills, and manage their truly complex transformation in such a way as to benefit them and this nation in a mutual way."
Beefing up the application process in their home countries is essential. "A measured, controlled, sustainable policy, with reduced waiting lists, would impress upon all stakeholders that there is a better way," he said.
Washington, listen up.