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Children's Treatment by the INS

January 07, 2003

Re "Many Refugee Kids Face Tough Times in INS Detention," Jan. 3: It is said that the measure of a civilized society is how it treats its children. Apparently, this country fails in regard to protecting the rights of immigrant children entering the U.S. Girls and boys locked up with rapists and drug dealers? Denying contact with family members and access to medical care? A 1 1/2-year-old baby forced to represent herself in court?

The only crimes these children have committed are being born in another country and hoping for a better future. The flagrant disregard for children's rights at the hands of the Immigration and Naturalization Service is appalling. As citizens of a so-called civilized nation, we should be outraged and demand that these practices be ended immediately -- no matter what one's personal position on U.S. immigration policy is.

Aimee Schut Abu-Shamsieh

Pasadena

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The solution to this problem is clear: Do a better job of monitoring our borders and keep these (and other) illegal immigrants out. I am outraged that The Times continues to tacitly encourage illegal immigration by running these "human interest" stories. Yes, everyone feels sorry for children, but not every child with a tough life in a South or Central American country runs away and illegally enters the U.S. The key word here is "illegal." These children and their parents, aunts, uncles and cousins are encouraged to illegally enter the U.S. by reports that the U.S. will feed, clothe and provide health-care services for them and assist with uniting them with their families, who are probably also here illegally.

The people who enter this country without permission are criminals. The children are just as much criminals as our own U.S.-citizen juvenile delinquents and should be housed in juvenile detention. The U.S. citizens who live near our border with Mexico have suffered the loss of public health care, overcrowding of public schools and gross increases in housing costs. It is time to say "stop" and insist that our federal government send these people home and prevent more from entering the U.S. There is a legal way to enter the U.S. People who ignore this and sneak in should be treated as criminals.

Laura Ellen Malkhoo

Huntington Beach

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Your article shows once again that the mere fact of being an American citizen, as I assume most of the INS officials, guards and agents who deal with these children must be, brings no assurance of being a humane being. The photo of shackled children is testimony enough to the obvious conclusion that something is very wrong here with the judgment that wields the power over how these children are treated. Surely no rule book on INS conduct dictates this level of cruelty.

Ann Colburn

Los Angeles

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