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Obama May Discuss Border Crisis in Dallas, But Is This His ‘Katrina Moment?’

A “Katrina Moment.” It’s a phrase that, for whatever reason, immediately brings the image of Kanye West crying on TV to my mind. It’s the phrase Laredo Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar used to describe President Obama’s refusal to break from his Texas itinerary, which will see him swing through Dallas and Austin and attend three fundraisers in two days. He will not visit the detention centers on the Texas-Mexico border that are home to an increasing number of child refugees from Latin America. While in Dallas, however, Obama has invited Gov. Rick Perry to discuss the situation along with local faith leaders and elected officials. Expect Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins to be there; the judge has offered to find housing for 2,000 child migrants.

But Katrina Moment? Even if Obama’s refusal to go to the border – as opposed to just sending aides to survey the situation – projects an image of callous detachment, is it fair to compare the drowning of an American city with thousands of children fleeing their troubled homeland? In my mind, that’s what makes this crisis cut to the moral heart of the immigration question. If it is morally unconscionable to reject children fleeing death, then where do you draw the line? Is it less immoral to reject adults fleeing death? Women fleeing abuse? What kind of abuse? What about grown men fleeing an economic reality that is equitable with a kind of death? I’m not offering answers, FrontBurnervians. It just seems like this is the real underlying implication of this crisis. Hardliners will quote Norm: “No, no, never, never.” But this situation seems to sneak between the cracks of the United States’ current asylum policy.

  • AeroRazavi

    Interesting that Katrina has been mentioned, but no one has not mentioned Hurricane Mitch.

    Hurricane Mitch devastated a country that was only a little more than a decade removed from a bloody civil war.

    To make matters worse, another natural disaster (flooding) hit Honduras in 2009.

    And of course, there is never-ending war that we require Central American governments to wage (War on Drugs) against an enemy that has no shortage of cash.

    As bad as Katrina was it pales in comparison to what Honduras has experienced.

  • Brett Moore

    We are facing a refugee and humanitarian crisis, and people are arguing about it as if it is only about illegal immigration. But no, this isn’t a “Katrina Moment.” That’s just wishful partisan thinking.

  • Avid Reader

    It’s not a “Katrina Moment”. Is it really “partisan thinking” when the rep saying those words is in the same party?

  • billholston

    Thanks Peter for your always thoughtful comments and questions. You ask an important one. I think that it is morally unacceptable for the United States to turn its back on anyone fleeing violence. If they are fleeing violence because of their identity, they are by definition a refugee and we have not just a moral, but a legal responsibility to provide shelter. We have a legal system to deal with these claims and thankfully many good lawyers who are willing to help people navigate this. That said, even pitiless people find it in their heart to reach out to children, which is why this has garnered so much attention. My email has been flooded with those hoping to help and in my view that’s what makes a world class city.

  • Brett Moore

    Mea culpa. Sometimes reading is hard.