Governor Deval Patrick, in response to President Obama’s request that Massachusetts provide shelter to some of the unaccompanied children flooding across our southern border from Central America, said he doesn’t believe that as a commonwealth "we can turn away and turn our backs to children who are coming from desperate situations." That would be hard to do, but as the governor acknowledges, the request made to all of the states carries with it unanswered questions regarding, logistics, timetables and money.

It is not clear where the young people would be kept or for how long. Should they be segregated from the rest of society, and if they are, is that humane? The White House says it would pick up the cost, but it cannot guarantee that because the money to do so is included in the $3.7 billion emergency funding bill addressing Congress that Republicans oppose.

House Republicans will oppose any initiative brought forward by the president simply on principle, but beyond that they want to repeal or reform the well-meaning but disastrous 2008 anti-child trafficking law advocated by President George W. Bush that triggered this mass migration. Addressing the complexities of that law can wait until the immediate crisis is addressed with funding for shelters, more immigration judges and lawyers and an ad campaign urging parents to keep their children home, but the GOP won’t budge.

Republicans also fear being called "soft on immigration" and don’t want to abandon their claims that the president is -- although there are still fewer border crossings now than under President Bush.


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However, these children are not immigrants as much as refugees, fleeing murderous gangs in Honduras and El Salvador whose bloodshed has been well-documented. Addressing these root causes and revamping the child-trafficking law must happen, but not until the current crisis is resolved. That means abandoning election year politics and approving the desperately needed funds requested by the president.