We all hope to live lives that are full and interesting. Louis Zamperini, who died last week at the ripe age of 97, sets a standard to which the rest of us can only aspire. If you’ve read the best-selling book Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, about Zamperini’s life, you know what I mean.
Zamperini was a juvenile delinquent, then a champion runner at USC, then a member of the fabled 1936 U.S. Olympic team that competed in Nazi Germany and saw Jesse Owens achieve immortality. Then Zamperini fought nobly in World War II, was shot down over the Pacific, somehow survived weeks on a raft that floated hundreds of miles before reaching land on a Japanese-occupied island, and then lived through brutal treatment in a prison camp. His story reads like the over-the-top plot of a movie, but it’s true — and the movie will be released later this year.
Leonard Pitts has written one of many appreciations of this fine man, who exemplified so many of the traits of the Americans known as The Greatest Generation. A slightly different take on Zamperini’s life, and the role religion played in the “redemption” part of his story, can be found at National Review Online. You can’t help but be inspired by the story of an average American who did extraordinary things — and you can’t help but wonder how many average Americans, put in the same circumstances, could have done the same.
Yesterday President Obama asked for $3.7 billion in emergency funding to address what clearly has become a crisis along America’s southwestern border. The crisis is a huge influx of unaccompanied teenagers and children — estimated to number more than 52,000 since October — who have flooded across the border.
The $3.7 billion requested would be used primarily for two purposes. $1.8 billion would go to providing food, shelter, and health care for the immigrants, who currently are housed on military bases, in Border Patrol facilities, and in other temporary quarters. Another $1.6 billion would be used to hire immigration judges and expedite the immigration process. The remaining $300 million would assist the central American countries from which the minors have come. The Administration, which contends that many of the minors are escaping drug cartels and sex-trafficking rings, proposes to use drone aircraft and other means to try to improve the security situation in those countries.
We’ll have to see the details, but what seems to be lacking from the Administration’s proposal is any real focus on or commitment to physically securing the border so that people cannot cross in the first place. If 52,000 unaccompanied minors have been able to make it to U.S. soil, our border obviously is porous. How many adults have reached American territory and, unlike the minors, eluded capture? If we cannot control who enters our country, we have serious security problems — and if we don’t address that fundamental issue, the flood will continue and the billions of dollars requested by the Administration will simply be the first of a series of stopgap measures.
I agree with providing humanitarian aid to the minors who have come to our country, but we cannot be a permanent refuge for any child or teenager who crosses the border — and then ultimately wants to seek asylum for the parents who may have sent them across the border for that purpose in the first place. There’s something fishy about the suddenness of the influx of unaccompanied minors across the border, and we also need to understand why the recent surge of immigrant minors has occurred. Have crime and living conditions in Mexico and central America really deteriorated so dramatically that it could explain a huge increase in children simply deciding, on their own, to begin the long trek north?