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Othering

Yesterday I saw a comment on the Nextdoor app. Some woman was "outraged" because of a news story about a stockpile of baby formula at a detention center at the border. She was disgusted that these illegal immigrant babies were getting formula when there is a baby formula shortage here in America and people here can't find formula for their own babies.


I stared at this woman's comment in wonder for a few moments. Certainly I can understand the concern someone like her might have that people here are having difficulty finding the formula they need for their children. But the idea that somehow these innocent immigrant children require it less seems like an inhumane thought to me.


Here are a couple of facts about that particular stockpile of baby formula:


  • The Flores consent decree, which was settled during the Clinton administration, and which all administrations ever since are required by law to follow, decrees that “Whenever the [Immigration Naturalization Service] takes a minor into custody, it shall expeditiously process the minor and shall provide the minor with a notice of rights, including the right to a bond redetermination hearing if applicable. Following arrest, the INS shall hold minors in facilities that are safe and sanitary and that are consistent with the INS’s concern for the particular vulnerability of minors. Facilities will provide access to toilets and sinks, drinking water and food as appropriate, medical assistance if the minor is in need of emergency services, adequate temperature control and ventilation, adequate supervision to protect minors from others, and contact with family members who were arrested with the minor.”


So the US government, by law, is required to provide these children the necessary food to nourish them, and that includes baby formula. It doesn't matter why they are there or if their guardians did something illegal to get them there. They are at a US detention center and require food just as much as any other child does.


You can read more about the Flores consent decree here.


  • Unlike an American citizen, those kids are detained in that facility, so it's not like they have much in the way of options as far as where to get their baby formula. Unlike you and me, they do not have the ability to run around town checking out various stores to see if some baby formula can be found or ordering some online.


Look, I sympathize with the plight of parents who are having difficulty finding formula for their infants. It is certainly a serious issue and no laughing matter. And if you want to read a more in-depth analysis about why there is a formula shortage in the first place, you can do so here.


But the idea that somehow these babies deserve formula less than any other baby is sad to me. These children are innocent. They're just babies who need food.


Yes, American babies need food, too, but why does this idea of "othering" exist? We blame people like undocumented immigrants for losses of jobs, lack of baby formula, higher taxes, higher crime, and degradation of country.


I would argue that most of the people who immigrate to the US are doing so in order to find a better life. They are escaping something so bad that they are willing to work the most menial and lowest-paying jobs here in this country. They are willing to risk life and limb to do so, often at a very high cost. They are treated badly due to their skin color and language. They must navigate a culture they do not fully understand. They dream things will be better for them here, and I wonder if many are disappointed they are not. It is a hard life.


We are such a privileged people here. We take so much for granted. We do not often realize how blessed and fortunate we are. And we waste, waste, waste. We act so entitled at times as a nation. Even the poorest among us are often doing better than some of the people that immigrate here.


Why do we do that? "Other" people? Shouldn't humanity be in this together? Shouldn't we be helping all who suffer, not just our own?


Stop being outraged about the "other." Have some compassion. Especially when it involves innocent babies.

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