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The real danger for immigrant kids

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John Moore - GETTY
Some 60,000 children have crossed the U.S. border this year.

When Gov. Pat McCrory speaks, it’s frequently hard to discern whether he’s being disingenuous for political reasons or truly believes what he says but is surprisingly uninformed of reality.

Such is the case with the governor’s latest foray into immigration. McCrory on Tuesday and again on Wednesday sounded the alarm about 1,200 unaccompanied immigrant children who have trickled into North Carolina. McCrory wants these kids’ deportation hearings held, and quickly. He says he is concerned for their safety in North Carolina, worried that the children may be getting placed into environments with drugs, prostitutes or abuse because of a lack of background checks on their guardians.

“We do not know where the over-1,100 children are right now and what the status of their legal guardians are and whether or not these children are protected, and that’s what I care about – the protection of these children,” McCrory said at a press conference Wednesday. “We have to get them with guardians we know are safe themselves.” On Tuesday, he had added that the state doesn’t know if the children lack immunizations and pose health risks to North Carolinians.

Oy, where to start? Perhaps with these four points:

• The guardians are undergoing background checks. Immigration lawyers and advocates told the Observer’s editorial board Wednesday that before taking in a minor, most guardians are fingerprinted and those fingerprints are sent to the FBI for a criminal check. The caregivers are also questioned and fill out paperwork that is sent to the FBI. They also sit through presentations in which their responsibilities are spelled out, and case managers follow up.

• McCrory is worried about these kids’ safety in North Carolina? They risked their lives over a 1,500-mile journey because they are fleeing unimaginable violence and poverty. Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world; its San Pedro Sula, home to some 2,000 of these child immigrants, is the most violent city in the world. El Salvador and Guatemala are plagued by violent gangs. The situation is so dangerous that the UN high commission for refugees says these immigrants should be treated as refugees displaced by armed conflict.

• Every child is put through a detailed health screening and given any needed vaccinations before being released from government custody.

• These Central American children are in North Carolina and other states because the federal government is abiding by bipartisan laws passed by Congress and signed by President George W. Bush in 2002 and 2008. The whole process is playing out as those laws specify.

We agree with Gov. McCrory that America’s immigration system is broken. But until the fractured Congress tackles that, North Carolina should be caring for these children instead of inventing phony reasons to rid ourselves of them.

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