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Another Voice: Compassion for migrant children must transcend politics

By Dr. Chelsea Hoenes

There are dedicated humanitarians on both ends of the political spectrum in this country. Both Republicans and Democrats give hundreds of thousands of dollars to charities annually in the spirit of humanism; something we often forget while championing our own political causes.

The most recent pressing issue unifying both factions is the state of disrepair of the detainment facilities for migrant children. The Trump administration recently won passage by Congress of $4.6 billion in emergency funds expressly for humanitarian aid at the border wall, separate from the funds requested for building of the wall itself.

This bipartisan bill will help provide desperately needed funding for children at detainment facilities along the southern border.

Conditions have reportedly been deplorable, with children lacking basic hygiene products or access to medical care.

It is encouraging to see both Republicans and Democrats coming together to find a solution, grudgingly acceptable to both parties, to solve a growing humanitarian crisis.

Despite the vast political rifts within our country, we must all champion the virtues that bring out the best in our humanity. No matter our political party, if we cannot be kind, we must be humane. If we cannot accept an open-door immigration policy, we must fight for legal immigration laws that are fair and just. If we cannot provide a safe and stable environment for migrant children, we must not separate them from their families that protect them.

As a physician and a public health practitioner, I have the unique privilege to serve both the richest and the most vulnerable of our community. There is such goodness and strength in people that I see daily in my practice that transcends social class or party.

All of us can agree that protecting children and providing for their welfare is one of the most important and basic responsibilities of any law-abiding American. All children that pass through our borders become our responsibility, and we must all take action to keep them from harm.

I urge both Republicans and Democrats to support bipartisan organizations like Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), which represents the legal interests of unaccompanied children. Advocate for policies that put children, and not politics, first. Search for opportunities to make a difference in the lives of children coming to us in need of help.

We must never forget to ask ourselves, “What is best for these kids, here, now?” We can each make a difference in the lives of a sick and frightened child, and we do not need the permission of any politician to do so.

Chelsea Hoenes, MD, is a surgical resident at the Jacobs School of Medicine, University at Buffalo.

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