(CNSNews.com) – Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) said on Tuesday that the children crossing into the United States illegally without a parent or guardian are no different then American children.
“We should understand that when we are encountering these children at the border, these children are just like our children, with the same hopes. They have the same dreams. They have the same wishes, and we should understand that and treat them with compassion,” Engel said an event at the Library of Congress.
The event was hosted by the American Jewish Committee’s Belfer Institute for Latino and Latin American Affairs and the Latino-Jewish Congressional Caucus, of which Engel is co-chairman.
Engel acknowledged that the United States “can’t just open the border totally to everybody,” but that “we shouldn’t shut the border either.”
“So when it comes to those arriving on our own border, we need to remain true to our own values and treat these children with compassion,” Engel said.
Engel said his global travels have made him realize “we’re all the same,” including the children who are breaking immigration law when they enter the country illegally.
“We’re all the same,” Engel said. “We all have the same emotions. We all have the same feelings. We have family feelings. We have family values. It’s all the same, and so we should understand that when we are encountering these children at the border, these children are just like our children.
“They have the same hopes. They have the same dreams. They have the same wishes, and we should understand that and treat them with compassion.”
The event was held to showcase the work of Sonia Nazario, author and journalist who wrote about the struggles of a teenage boy who entered the United States illegally as what the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) refers to as a surge of Unaccompanied Alien Children, mostly from Central America, entering the country along its southwest border.
According to DHS’s U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), so far in fiscal year 2016 (Oct. 1, 2015 to Feb. 29, 2016) there has been an 89 percent increase in the number of UACs (age 0 to 17) entering the country illegally compared to the same time period in fiscal year 2015 – from 12,490 to 23,553.