July 28

On The Post’s editorial page this morning, we take Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) to task for the disconnect between his impassioned advocacy for the thousands of undocumented, unaccompanied minors who have streamed into this country and his opposition to the federal government’s proposal that some of them be temporarily housed at a shelter in Carroll County, a conservative, heavily white part of Maryland.

Martin O'Malley repeals death penalty
Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley. (Chris Usher/CBS News via Getty Images)

The governor’s aides are livid at the suggestion – first made by the White House – that his stance amounts to blatant hypocrisy. But it’s hard to see it as a model of political courage either. Imagine Little Rock, 1957 . . . President Dwight Eisenhower declares Central High School off-limits to nine black students because he fears the locals may not be very welcoming. How would that have been different from O’Malley’s position on Carroll County?

The governor apparently got himself in hot water with the White House by staking out a position to the left of the president when he criticized the administration for wanting to accelerate deportations for the thousands of underage migrants whose cases now take months or years to adjudicate in U.S. immigration courts.

It’s possible to see O’Malley’s ringing statements as an expression of genuine compassion for beleaguered kids fleeing from violence and poverty in Central America. It’s possible to see his statements as part of an ongoing political strategy to position himself on the Democratic Party’s left flank, perhaps in an attempt to improve his vice presidential prospects in the eyes of Hillary Clinton, who may need some help with the party’s liberal base.

It’s also possible to see his statements as irresponsible hyperbole — and even more hypocrisy.

O’Malley suggests it would be morally wrong to send the young immigrants “back to a certain death” in Central America. At the same time, his aides say quietly, of course, that the governor does not think all 57,000 of the youths who have entered the country illegally since last fall can stake a legitimate claims to asylum. Naturally, he would not oppose deportation for immigrants once they are accorded due process.

So on the one hand, O’Malley thinks they face “certain death” in Central America. On the other hand, he’s okay with deportation if a judge orders it.

Leaving aside the hypocrisy for a moment, the real problem is with the substance. If the governor were speaking for the U.S. government — which he’s obviously not — his public statements would amount to an open invitation to Central American kids to make the trek north and cross the Rio Grande without much fear that they would be sent home.

That’s not in the U.S. interest and it’s certainly not in the kids’ own interest. It’s also irresponsible in the extreme. The trip north is extremely dangerous. Girls who make it are routinely advised to take contraception in the event they are raped. Many of the coyotes who guide the children through Mexico also prey on them. To invite them to the United States en masse by suggesting it would be immoral for America to send them home to a “certain death” is also to induce them to risk their lives. By following the governor’s prescription, the United States would risk making a bad humanitarian crisis good deal worse.

Lee Hockstader has been a member of The Post’s editorial board since 2004. He writes on a variety of topics, including politics, state and local affairs in Virginia and Maryland, immigration, and foreign affairs.