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Romano: A little more compassion, a little less politics needed in Pasco immigration debate

Such a thankless job, these poor members of the Pasco Planning Commission have.

Paperwork and hearings. Business and residential concerns. Zoning out the wazoo.

And now, darn it all, they have to solve America's immigration problem.

In case you haven't heard, that appears to be the opinion of a handful of residents who have descended on the Planning Commission like a swarm of jingoistic locusts.

Seems some people are upset that Gulf Coast Jewish Family & Community Services is asking permission to add 16 new beds to its Holiday shelter for immigrant boys.

To some, this is intolerable.

These folks — who are no doubt descendents of the Mayflower — say Pasco needs to take a stand. Show the bureaucrats in Washington that we don't like illegal immigrants, and we're not going to house them no matter how young or pitiful they might be.

If we can put aside the issue of basic human decency for a moment, there is one problem with this stance:

Immigration ain't part of the Planning Commission's job.

Debating the Dream Act, or the lack of border patrol or the White House's record on deportations might be loads of fun on talk radio, but I'm pretty sure it doesn't fall under the purview of an appointed board in a single county on the west coast of Florida.

But I'm sure that won't stop some concerned citizens from showing up at the commission's next meeting on Wednesday with their list of potential horrors.

What about diseases?

(The boys get a medical screening before arriving at the shelter, and a complete physical within 48 hours.)

What about the cost?

(The center just got a federal grant.)

What about the impact on neighborhood schools?

(They don't go to schools while at the shelter because they're here only a short time.)

In other words, if that charitable organization had not asked permission to increase its capacity from 16 to 32 beds, it's likely no one in the neighborhood would have ever noticed the difference.

But since some people seem so concerned, they might be interested to know that most of the boys are brought into the country through human trafficking rings or smugglers, according to a shelter spokeswoman. They are typically fleeing violence or oppression from countries such as Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.

They get counseling as well as cultural and adaptation services at the shelter. All the boys have family members somewhere in the U.S., and they are typically placed with relatives after a 17-day stay here. So far, Gulf Coast Jewish Family & Community Services has seen 47 boys pass through the doors of the Holiday center.

Whether those numbers increase in the coming year will be up to Pasco officials. The Planning Commission will discuss the issue on Wednesday before making a recommendation to the County Commission, which has the final call.

I don't know all the legalities or logistics that go into a zoning decision in that particular neighborhood, but I do know politics should not be a part of the discussion.

And if you're inclined to complain about a charitable organization that is trying to help children in need, you might want to ask yourself this question:

Why do you think they want to come to the U.S.?

Maybe because this is a land of opportunity? Of compassion and justice? Maybe because many other countries view the U.S. as somehow being a cut above the rest?

So wouldn't it be nice if we actually acted like that?

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