Editor’s Note: John Kasich served as governor of Ohio from 2011 to 2019 and was a member of Congress from 1983 to 2001. The views expressed in this commentary belong solely to the author. View more opinion at CNN.
America’s war on children must stop.
What’s happening on our southern border – migrant children in overcrowded, unsanitary and unsafe conditions, separated from their families – is an unspeakable disgrace and a stain on this nation we may never wash away.
Watching and reading reports about the gross neglect and mistreatment we’re inflicting on kids is appalling. I ask myself, “Can this be America? Is this the way we in this country treat any human being, let alone the youngest, most fragile and most innocent among us?” But it’s true. What we’re seeing now is undeniably un-American, inhumane and shameful.
For no offense of their own, sick and hungry children are left to sleep on concrete, in their own filth, without adequate nutrition and medical care. Infants and toddlers, separated from their families, are being cared for by other youngsters who may be only a few years older. Is this happening because of cruel intent, scandalous neglect or a lack of funding? Ultimately, I care less about the answer to those questions and whom we can blame, and more about how we can help these children.
Blame and dissension will not bring us solutions. That will take leadership. Republicans and Democrats in Congress need to set aside their differences and drop the endless back-and-forth finger-pointing, as well as the fighting within their own camps. Most of all, the President of United States has to be the leader here. There is no more urgent moral issue before him, but he’s been engaged in the partisan blame game. That’s unacceptable.
Ending this war on children has become an afterthought in Washington’s endless struggle over immigration policy. But this crisis at our border is more urgent. These are children. This is America. And we have to put the children first! Without delay, marshal this nation’s resources to provide safe, humane conditions for children being held, while moving just as quickly to get as many as possible out of detention and into the care of family members or other sponsors.
This means pushing our current fixation on election debates, town halls and other political concerns to one side – and doing it right now – so we can take care of these children first. Immigration policies, long-term fixes and the inevitable politics can come later.
Do we need secure borders? Of course. Do we need a total overhaul of our system of legal immigration? Absolutely. Republicans and Democrats should work together to pass immigration reform that meets our economic and security needs while also creating jobs for Americans. But put the needs of these children first.
In recent days there have been hopeful signs. The House and Senate have moved forward quickly on supplemental funding to ease conditions at the border. But Congress and the President need to come to a compromise that ensures the safety and well-being of these children. They must also realize that funding alone is not enough.
A real solution will require much greater accountability, a real plan for going forward and a bipartisan commitment to taking care of these kids. All of this will take time, but the needs of these children will not wait. Today – here and now — this business of crowding children into jail-like detention centers, while denying them adequate nutrition, sanitation and medical care has to stop. No debate, no excuses, no finger-pointing. Just stop!
This disgraceful disregard for our own values is not who we are as Americans. It’s not who we have ever been. To ourselves, and to so many others throughout the world, our country has represented the promise of something better. At some point we must step back, come together and do what is right for these kids. Because, only then, will our actions be right for America.