Commentary: Refugee youth would be great citizens

Mike Males (Provided)

Mike Males (Provided)

“Suffer the little children to come unto me,” Jesus said, but not to Oklahoma or elsewhere in America. Right-wing, self-proclaimed Christians are yet again demonstrating their disdain for Jesus teachings that don’t suit their tribal nativism.

Oklahoma’s Republican congressional delegation voted to deport the Central American youngsters who journeyed thousands of miles seeking refuge from unspeakable violence (much of it fostered by drug gangs supplying upscale, aging America’s insatiable habit). There’s no room in the inn.

Yet, who would make better citizens — if that’s what some refugees ultimately want — than those who trekked thousands of miles, enduring rape, robbery and beatings to get here? How many of these xenophobic mobs screaming at buses of children would make that kind of sacrifice?

“Patriots” endlessly whine and threaten to secede from the union over Obamacare, gun checks, gay marriage, dark-skinned people in “their” country, made-up culture-war junk, any taxes at all, curly light bulbs whatever doesn’t go their way. White House liberals regard refugee children as a political vexation to be deported as quickly as possible.

Do swarthy newcomers bring crime, violence, shootings and drug epidemics, as anti-immigrant activists proclaim? Oklahoma’s Hispanic population has tripled over the last two decades to over 350,000, plus an estimated 75,000 undocumented immigrants.

The reality is that more Hispanics have brought down Oklahoma’s rates of crime, violence, gun fatality and drug abuse. The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation’s crime figures show that relative to their respective populations, Hispanics actually have considerably lower rates of violent crime, total crime and drug offenses than do non-Hispanic whites. A non-Hispanic white Oklahoman is 30 percent more likely to be arrested for a criminal offense and 50 percent more likely to be arrested for illegal drugs than a Hispanic Oklahoman. (These figures involve subtracting offenses by Hispanics from totals for whites.)

Centers for Disease Control tabulations of deaths from guns and illegal drugs in Oklahoma over the last five years show that Hispanics 9 percent of Oklahoma’s population comprise just 4 percent of firearms deaths and 2 percent of illegal drug deaths. In contrast, non-Hispanic whites, 71 percent of Oklahoma’s population, account for 73 percent of gun deaths and 83 percent of deaths from illegal drugs.

Oklahoma’s worst populations for illegal drug abuse are not young or minority but non-Hispanic whites ages 40 to 54 (who also have extraordinarily high gun fatality risks). Non-Hispanic whites ages 30 and older, 45 percent of Oklahoma’s population, account for 60 percent of Oklahoma’s firearms deaths and 68 percent of its illegal-drug deaths.

Which circles back to a major crisis driving Central American children to the United States: Americans’ rampant drug habit that funds ruthless international traffickers who generate horrific violence in countries along supply routes, like Guatemala and Honduras.

Oklahoma and the rest of America will survive rotten behaviors, our Neanderthal politics and us aging whites. A few tens of thousands more Central American youngsters who will soon be contributing their payroll taxes to our Social Security checks should be welcome indeed.

Mike Males, Harding High School grad (1968) and senior researcher for the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, lives in Oklahoma City.

Mike Males

This article was written by an Oklahoma Gazette contributor. To reach an editor, please email jchancellor@okgazette.com with this story's headline in your subject line.

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