Late last week protesters lined both sides of Court Street on Syracuse's north side creating a physical divide between those that stand divided ideologically on whether Central New York should welcome the border children looking for a temporary place to stay. This week the people who picketed will have a chance to attend two meetings in Syracuse that will give a deeper explanation about how this group of children could end up occupying the old vacant building that until recently housed the Sisters of St. Francis.
The first meeting is Wednesday night at the Vinette Towers on Pond Street at 6:30 pm. That session was organized by 1st District Counselor Jake Barrett. The second session is Thursday evening at 6:00 pm at the Pastime's Athletic Club on Court Street. That session will include Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner who elevated this controversy when she wrote a letter to President Obama informing his administration that Syracuse would welcome the children.
The idea of Central American and Mexican children coming to Syracuse has touched a nerve among some people in our community. It's hard to know how many are upset by the idea, how many are supportive or how many fall in the middle. It does strike me as an idea that is easier to dislike in the abstract.
People are concerned the immigrant children will tap into scarce public resources in our community. Neighbors are concerned about a potential spike in crime. Taxpayers are concerned the government's dollar would be better spent on taking care of the children already living in our country.
All those negative feelings come without meeting the children who might spend time in Syracuse. They come without know the type of lives they are escaping. They come without seeing their eyes, their smiles and their fears in an up close and personal way.
The meetings over the next two days should add some facts to the abstract debate. Those on one end of the spectrum still won't be happy. On the other end they will feel fortified with facts that support the Syracuse spirit of welcoming children in need. The meetings may also convince some standing on middle ground that the offer to house the children in need positively reflects on Central New York.
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