I’ve been scrutinizing the photographs of the accommodations being prepared for the 6000 refugees arriving in New Mexico. The Albuquerque Convention Center’s been converted to something resembling an army barracks of pre-All-Volunteer US Army vintage. Clean, neat, adequate for a temporary situation.
This is precisely the sort of shelter that’s probably being provided all across the US. It follows the prescribed methodology for temporary disaster shelters when highways are shut down for severe weather and motorists need a place to hang their hats for a day or two until the situation returns to normalcy.
It’s a necessary measure and it had to be done this way, but it also needs to be recognized that these people are here to stay awhile. There’s nothing to suggest the quarter- million refugees will be able to return to their homes for the next several months, if ever.
Once the dust settles on the crisis the urban areas of America will see a new problem arise if immediate planning for ‘phase two’ doesn’t begin at once. When the shock of the disaster begins to settle these people will be idle, angry, poor and concentrated. A recipe for crime and other inner-city ills, but perpetrated by ‘outsiders’. City residents will have daily reminders in loving detail of what’s happening on the evening news, and perceive it as ingratitude, respond with anger and resentment.
The history is there for examination. The Job Corps Centers of the 70s are an example. Inner-city youths concentrated in dormitories for job training in such places as San Marcos, Texas. Inevitable crime waves where none had previously existed. Curses from the communities until the Job Corps was abandoned.
This is the Job Corps on a different order of magnitude.
We experienced a similar problem after the fall of Siagon, but on a smaller scale. The refugees from Vietnam were taken to emergency centers in Arkansas. But there was never any fantasy they could return to Southeast Asia, so the infrastructure for relocation was immediately begun. The result was one of glowing pride for America. Twenty years after the fact Vietnamese refugees were established in every walk of life, their children among the highest achievers in every school, recipients of the most coveted merit scholarships.
These unfortunates need to absorbed into the general population as rapidly as possible, disseminated into the neighborhoods, towns and villages of America. The fabric of our compassion and mercy is too fragile, our addiction to the minutia of daily news too complete to indulge ourselves and these refugees with delays and demoralizing false hopes for an early return to Atlantis.
Life has to begin again elsewhere, difficult as that might be to accept. Most of the communities of America could profit by a tablespoon dose of 'Let the good times roll!"