The cataclysm in Syria has people all over the world concerned about the plight of refugees fleeing for their lives.
Actually, here in America, we’re just a little less concerned, in that a majority of us don’t want to let any refugees — even little kids — into our country because we’re afraid that they’re Isis or Al Qaeda or whoever wants to kill us now.
But for many other Americans, these ghastly images have provoked prayers, donations, and the occasional Google search phrase “How do I adopt a Syrian war orphan?” (Answer: you probably can’t).
This outpouring of support is admirable, but it is also a bit mystifying, in that we have a refugee crisis right outside our door.
I’m referring, of course, to the thousands of women and children fleeing Central America because of that region’s horrific violence. Strangely enough, many Americans don’t view this as a refugee crisis. One reason for this is because, as my friend Hector Luis Alamo wrote in Latino Rebels, “the U.S. government has refused to label them refugees, opting instead to refer to them as ‘migrants,’ a word which implies they’re little more than tourists.”
As Alamo points out, this simple linguistic trick has the effect of convincing many Americans that when it comes to terrified Central American refugees, “under those tattered, dusty clothes lies a lazy loafer or a scheming evildoer.”
In essence, many Americans have taken their hatred of the undocumented and affixed it to this latest disaster. As such, we don’t see that Central Americans have much in common with Syrians. Nor do we believe that they are both humanitarian disasters.
We will, however, have the same response, which is to shut the gates and pull up the drawbridge.
Hey, at least we’re consistent.