Help Children, Don’t Attack Them | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Help Children, Don’t Attack Them

On July 18, Gov. Phil Bryant sent a letter to President Barack Obama expressing his "deep concern regarding the ongoing crisis at the United State's southern border" where "illegal aliens—many (of them) unaccompanied children—are flooding into our country in record numbers."

The situation at the U.S.-Mexico border, where thousands of Central American children are being detained, is grave. These children by and large are fleeing violence in countries like Honduras, where illegal drug traffickers rely on violence to keep their products moving to customers in the U.S.

A bill that the Mississippi Legislature passed earlier this year, which would require mandatory drug screening and possible testing of people receiving government benefits, was scheduled to take effect July 1. However, state officials called a public hearing, which took place July 22, before implementing the law.

The supporters of the provision, HB 49, mostly Republicans, said they were concerned about the scourge of drug addiction and its effects on children and families. They just want people to get help they need, backers argued.

We're not fully clear on what the motivations behind HB 49 are, but it isn't about ending drug addiction in Mississippi, nor is it about helping children. If it were true that our policymakers—who also this year passed a controversial 20-week abortion ban that went into effect July 1, ostensibly out of concern for unborn children—care deeply about the state's children, Mississippi would not again rank No. 50 among the states for children's' quality of life.

The latest Kids Count survey, which the Annie E. Casey Foundation conducts annually, shows that in the past year, Mississippi slipped back to last place for economic well-being, health, education, and family and community after climbing to No. 49 last year.

Other states, like Utah, that have tried drug testing have not realized any savings from the program, catching minimal numbers of people testing positive while spending thousands of dollars on testing.

Besides, as we report this week (see page 10), the drug-testing law does would not punish the drug-using parent, but would sanction the entire household, including children. In reality, as written, HB 49 lacks any provision to protect children, to ensure they remain fed, clothed and housed, in the event a parent tests positive for drug use.

In Gov. Bryant's letter to President Obama, he accuses the White House of having lax immigration policies—Obama has shamefully, in our estimation, deported record numbers of immigrants in his six years in office—and threatens to prevent the federal government from housing adult and child immigrants in Mississippi.

In other words, instead of making Mississippi a welcoming place for children whom, if nurtured, cared for and respected, would grow up to becoming proud Mississippians, we are telling the world that we are not the Hospitality State after all.

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