Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Camp of the Saints

A few days after I arrived back in the U.S. I went to a comedy show with my brother.  One of the comedians did a skit about how, “When I was a kid if I wandered out of the front yard my mom would tie me to a tree.  Now there are kids walking all the way from Honduras to Texas.”  WHAT?  I have to admit I didn’t know about the so-called “Border Crisis” until that comedy show because we didn’t get any news about it abroad.

I recently read the book, The Camp of the Saints.  The book was written in the early 1970s by Jean Raspail about a mass immigration which led to the destruction of western civilization.  In the story nearly a million people board dilapidated ships in India and sail to France.  It takes two months for the ships to make their way to the Mediterranean, and the majority of the book focuses on the attempts of the western governments to figure out how to handle the approaching ships.  There is a significant amount of debate by various parties about whether the ships should be sunk to prevent the passengers from landing where they are not wanted, whether aid should be given to assist them and then they should be encouraged to go elsewhere, or perhaps, even continue circling the globe as a new, floating nation-state, or whether they should be welcomed with open arms and provided with food, medicine, lodging, etc.  Ultimately, as the ships approach French shores there is mass chaos as many private citizens flee to surrounding nations, the government and army essentially break down entirely and abandon their posts, and the few hold-outs are brutally robbed, raped, murdered and run out of their homes.  The illegal immigrants become an invasion that destroys everything in its wake.

When I was in Africa I was in a number of countries with refugee camps.  I don’t think the situation with the illegal immigrants flocking to the U.S. is a refugee camp situation- yet- but it does remind me of them.  I was reading recently that the reason so many unattended children are among the mass of immigrants is because the Dream Act and a law stating that children from non-border countries can be granted asylum.  I don’t claim to know the full details of that legislation, but I understand that before any decision is made regarding whether someone is granted asylum or returned home that they are being transported to shelters for medical attention.  Hearing about the more than 100 shelters set up across the country for these immigrants reminds me of the refugee camps I saw in Africa.

When I was in Congo I drove through a refugee camp which was opened 20 years ago after the Rwandan genocide.  Still today nearly two million people live in that camp.  The people living there are criminals who would be tried by The Hague for war crimes if they returned to Rwanda.  This refugee camp which has been in existence for two decades is barely five miles from the border with Rwanda.  The crazy thing is that once you cross the border into Rwanda there is another refugee camp.  This camp is maybe two miles over the border in Rwanda.  The camp still stands but it is empty.  I asked my driver about the empty camp.  He told me that the camp remains intact because whenever rebel action in Congo gets really bad hundreds of thousands of people cross the border.  Whenever the action dies down the people return, but it is, according to him, a major challenge for the Rwandan government to get them out of the camp and send them home.  He said the government will often dismantle the camp with the people still in it, forcibly take them to the border, and then they will rebuild the camp a few days later because they know they will need it again shortly.  Very often when they begin tearing down the camps the refugees will fight back and flee into the forests because they would rather wander around on their own than go home.
I don’t know what will happen regarding this current “Border Crisis.”  It sounds like this Dream Act may be becoming a bit of a nightmare.  But the one thing I did learn in Africa is that once you open your doors it is very hard to close them, and almost impossible to return to sender.

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