To The Point

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More children than ever before are trying to cross the US-Mexico border, to escape violence back home, especially in Central America.

While the number of illegal bordering crossings is at a 40-year low, there has been a dramatic surge in the number of children being stopped by Border Patrol along the US Mexico border.

In fact, government officials estimate that in fiscal year 2014, which ends in Setpember, at least 60,000 children will be apprehended as they try to enter the country illegally. That’s 10 times the number of children stopped only three years ago.

Most of the children are from the Central American countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Most are fleeing the increasing gang violence and poverty that is plaguing their communities. Most are trying to reunite with a parent or a family member in the US.

Sonia Nazario is familiar with these stories. Her 2006 book, “Enrique’s Story,” which was based on a Pulitzer Prize-winning series Nazario wrote for the Los Angeles Times, was recently updated. It tells the story of Enrique, a Honduran boy who makes the dangerous trek alone to reunite with his mother in the US. “Many of these kids have no money to take this journey, so they do it the only way they can, which is gripping for dear life to the tops and sides of these freight trains travelling up the length of Mexico,” Nazario says. 

Nazario says jumping on and off those box cars isn’t the only dangerous part of these sorts of journeys. The Mexican drug cartels often control the tops of these trains, where the children ride. “They’re kidnapping 18,000 Central Americans every year, making their way north through Mexico and they prefer children,” Nozario explains. “These kids are carrying the number of a relative in the US and they can extort these relatives for money, for $3000 to $5000. And if you don’t pay, they’ll kill the children.”

Nazario says the trauma doesn’t stop there for many of the children — the ones who get caught. Once stopped by Border Patrol, the children areed in a detention center and, ultimately, must stand before an immigration judge.

Nazario recalls seeing a 3-year-old, clutching a teddy bear, standing before a judge without even a lawyer at the toddler’s side. Nazario is on the board of Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), a non-profit organization that has created a network of more 6000 lawyers who represent these children pro-bono.

KIND President Wendy Young says something must be done policy wise that recognizes these children as “Children first. Immigrants second”


Warren Olney’s “To The Point” has provided extensive coverage of the escalating conflict in Syria, asking back in March, 2011, how the country might be affected by changes in the Middle East and keeping a close watch on the often tragic changes that did follow.

President Obama has asked the Congress to approve a plan to  intervene directly in Syria, most likely with cruise missile strikes in retaliation for chemical weapons attacks against Syrian rebels.

Below, we’ve compiled an archive of key shows to provide a grounding in how the battle for Syria evolved and why it threatens to spill over into a greater war for control in the Middle East.

September 12, 2013: Sizing Up Syria’s Chemical Weapons Proposal

In Geneva, the US says it will test the seriousness of Russia’s plan to put Syria’s chemical arsenal under international control. In the meantime, we look at how difficult that task will be — even if Vladimir Putin and Bashar al-Assad can be trusted to mean what they say. In the meantime, is the US arming Syrian rebels?

September 11, 2013: President Obama Wants to Give Peace a Chance

September 9, 2013: Congress Faces Big Issues: Syria, Debt Ceiling, Immigration

September 4, 2013: Strike on Syria may be about more than chemical weapons


"The reason that AIPAC and Israel both want the United States to stick to the red line and go to war in Syria is because they are afraid if the United States doesn’t, it’ll be impossible to get the US to got to war with Iran or to allow Israel to attack Iran over its nuclear developments."

— MJ Rosenberg,  Huffington Post blogger and Special Correspondent for The Washington Spectator. Former senior staff member at AIPAC (now a critic of the organization)


September 3, 2013: Congress Takes Up Strikes on Syria


"For me the problem is this is unpredictable, even if we had a limited narrow scope and duration of this military strike, how do we know what’s going to happen after we shoot across the bow. This is really just to send a message, this is just so we can keep our credibility and our reputation and that’s not a good enough reason for me or my constituents on possibly dragging us into a civil war which has nothing to do with us. I’m still concerned with the retaliation after we strike and what does that mean long-term for our security." —Janice Hahn, Democratic Congresswoman for the 44th District in California.

August 30, 2013: Obama Administration Lays Groundwork for Action in Syria

August 29, 2013: Is Punitive Action against Syria Justified? Is It Legal?


"Once you’ve started down a military road there is pressure to continue if your initial steps are not effective and I’m very concerned that they would not be effective… The other thing we have to understand is the laws of unintended consequences. If we launch a limited strike, we don’t know what the other parties will do. We don’t know what Assad will do, we don’t know what Iran will do, we don’t’ know what Hezbollah will do, we don’t know what the opposition will do." —Ryan Crocker, Former Ambassador to Iraq, currently the Dean at the George Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University

August 27, 2013: Will Military Strike on Syria Be Too Little, Too Late

August 23, 2013: Chemical Weapons, ‘Red Lines’ and US Involvement in Syria

July 17, 2013: Behind the News from Syria

June 17, 2013: Is Syria’s Civil War Going Global?

May 6, 2013: Israel Strikes Syria, Will the US Be Next?

April 24, 2013: Does Obama Have to Act in Syria?

March 28, 2013: Syria on the Sunni-Shia Fault Line 

December 4, 2012: Syrian Political Landscape Shifts As Crisis Intensifies


"The immediate crisis we have in front of us is the Assad regimes demise and how that happens… there’s been so much blood letting and so much of the regime beyond Assad is involved in the brutal suppression of its people that the political settlement now is very difficult, and the softer landing we were hoping for is unlikely… There is not going to be one coherent opposition body with which anyone can negotiate. And I think that’s going to add to the challenge of governing Syria, of rebuilding, of elections, of all of these state-building issues and I think that the US, for very good reason, doesn’t want to get involved in. But if you don’t get involved in this situation in some way shape or form, your ability to shape the outcome becomes less and less, and I think we all share with our allies the short term goal of bringing Assad’s reign to an end. — Andrew Tabler, Senior Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Author of “In the Lion’s Den: An Eyewitness Account of Washington's Battle With Assad’s Syria

August 9, 2012: The Syrian War and Secret U.S. Support
July 20, 2012: Conflict Intensifies in Syria
On the Assads: “They hadn’t reformed in decades.The system they were presiding over was so unbelievably corrupt, it couldn’t reform. The thing that sent me running out of the charity was being offered a bag of money, when I didn’t even know why I was being offered a bag of money. The system was so rotten… I think for [President Assad], it’s a life or death struggle. We have to draw a line somewhere, because I think that he is ruthless … I think it would be very difficult for President Obama to stand by in the face of a huge massacre or the use of [chemical weapons]. I know the administration is very concerned about that, and rightfully so.” —Andrew Tabler, senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and author of “In the Lion’s Den: An Eyewitness Account of Washington’s Battle with Assad’s Syria
May 30, 2012: The Syrian Government and the Massacre at Houla

February 15, 2012: Is It Time to Intervene in Syria?


"There’s more and more cases of people fleeing illegally. Of course it depends on the place, but we’re talking about cities where people basically feel surrounded. There are troops and armored vehicles circling their neighborhoods, or sometimes the whole town depending on how much of it they feel is opposition held…. In the case of a place like Homs, a city of one million, and is considered the heart of the uprising, they are focusing on certain neighborhoods, usually poorer neighborhoods that have a large Sunni population, which is the majority religious population in the country and has been the biggest supporter of the uprising… people say  it’s so hard to get in and out that they are struggling to get food, so they are relying on whatever they’ve saved up at home and they’re talking about smuggling things like bread and water as being  as difficult as smuggling as weapons. They have to go at night and can only bring in what they can carry." —Erika Solomon, Correspondent for Reuters based in Beirut

January 5, 2012: Syria’s Crackdown Continues 

December 4, 2012: Syrian Political Landscape Shifts As Crisis Intensifies
March 31, 2011: Will Syria Be Swept Up by the Winds of Change?
Where was this heart-felt passion for the suffering of the Syrian people? Where was Britain and the United States and other powers when 100,000 people, mostly women, children, and civilians, were dying?
Marwan Bishara, Senior political analyst for Al Jazeera and the editor and host of “Empire”, which looks at changes going on in the Arab world speaking on today’s To the Point

"Eyes on the Prize" became an iconic song during the Civil Rights era. Musician Ross Altman sings the song and explains its history.

Fifty years ago, hundreds of thousands rallied during the March on Washington. A big part of the march was the music. Here, musician Len Chandler recalls the day (and what it was like to hang out with Bob Dylan)

America’s 43rd President now has the country’s 13th presidential library. The George W. Bush Presidential Centerhouses the bullhorn from Ground Zero, the pistol from Saddam Hussein’s spider hole and a statue of two favorite dogs. How much is there on missing weapons of mass destruction or Wall Street bailouts? Do Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld or Karl Rove get much attention? Every president since FDR has a similar mix of historical fact and self-serving propaganda assembled on his behalf. We look at the contents, the architecture and the symbolism of Bush’s Center in Dallas and at the role of presidential libraries in our political life.  

Roe v. Wade: Still Fighting after All These Years 

When the Supreme Court legalized abortion 40 years ago today, it may have settled the law, but it started the most bitter of all the battles in America’s ongoing culture war. Roe v. Wade pitted a woman’s right to choose against the right of a fetus to live, an issue that divides America. Although controversy continues, that’s still the law of the land, so much so that a new generation takes it for granted. Polls show a majority still supports legal abortion, but in some states it’s harder and harder to get one. We look at that paradox and update the current strategies of both sides.

You’ve got an awful lot of people who are kind of curdled against the progress we’ve made in the last fifty years and have convinced themselves, fearfully and resentfully, that the chief guard of their liberty is a Bushmaster in their closet — not the rights that we knit together across the differences that divide us.
Taylor Branch, Pulitzer-prize winning author and historian. Author of “The King Years: Historic Moments in the Civil Rights Movement” on today’s To the Point.

Are you eating stolen maple syrup? The New York Times’ Canada correspondent explains… 

Fiction, journalism and Zero Dark Thirty. The film will ”certainly leave the impression that coercive interrogation techniques were used to find Bin Laden.” - CNN National Security correspondent, Peter Bergen on today’s To the Point.