Hilary Schardein: The Immigration Crisis and Families’ Heartbreaking Choices

Letters to the Editor
Letters to the Editor

I read The Signal’s editorial titled “Our View: What’s Become of Personal Responsibility” (June 23) regarding the immigration crisis enveloping our country with a mix of sadness, shame and horror. I too believe in personal responsibility, but I also understand that in desperate situations taking personal responsibility for your family sometimes forces parents to make the heartbreaking choice to flee their homes to seek help and safety.

There is a crisis unfolding south of our borders. Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Mexico are all plagued by violence and instability. In 2015, El Salvador was the world’s most violent country not engaged in open war, and in Honduras the entrenched corruption leads to the regular citizens paying an estimated $200 million in extortion fees annually. The organized crime organizations have taken over towns and cities in these countries in much the same way that ISIS has occupied and terrorized communities in Iraq and Syria.

The families arriving at our border are fleeing war zones in everything but name. Personally, I have trouble imagining the level of desperation and terror that I would have to face to pack up my family and leave everything we know and love behind to flee to a new country where we would begin to rebuild a life on the margins of society. But I do know that it would be because I felt there was literally no other possible option to ensure that I didn’t watch my children be killed or starve.

These families are arriving seeking asylum. To call people who are doing exactly this “illegal immigrants” is a lie. There is a legal process in place for asylum seekers, and arriving at the border without a visa and walking up to border agents and requesting asylum is that legal process. They are not trying to sneak in under the cover of darkness, or by claiming to be tourists and overstaying a visa. They are immigrants applying to enter the country through a legally allowed process. They are behaving responsibly. They are following the rules our country laid out for these circumstances.

For anyone not seeking asylum and entering the country without proper documentation, the crime of crossing the border is a misdemeanor and the penalty is a $50 fine or six months in prison. It is not “the left,” as The Signal indicated, that is trying to put illegal immigration in a special class. Our justice system already has separate classes of crimes, and separating parents from their children and putting children in shelters or foster placement prior to a parent’s conviction of a non-violent misdemeanor with a $50 fine is quite simply not something that happens.

In addition to believing in personal responsibility, I believe in compassion and grace. I believe in the golden rule that teaches us to treat others as we would want to be treated. I believe that the lived experiences of other people do not match my own lived experiences.

And I believe, above all else, that government exists first and foremost to protect the least among us. A government has lost its moral compass when it instead chooses to visit terror upon children and parents who are fleeing horrors most of us can barely begin to comprehend. In condoning this practice, and condemning rather than helping those begging America for help, The Signal editorial board has shown our community that its moral compass is missing as well. The Santa Clarita I know is better than that.

Hilary Schardein

Canyon Country

Editor’s note: While we respect your opinion and your right to disagree with us, it should be noted that in no way did our editorial condone the separation of children from parents or “terrorizing” children.

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