The Child Separation Crisis Is the Latest Byproduct of a Feckless Congress

FILE - In this Jan. 4, 2016 photo, a U.S. Border Patrol agent drives near the U.S.-Mexico border fence in Santa Teresa, N.M. Can Donald Trump really make good on his promise to build a wall along the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexican border to prevent illegal migration? What’s more, can he make Mexico pay for it? Sure, he can build it, but it’s not nearly as simple as he says. (AP Photo/Russell Contreras)

It is seemingly impossible to get either side to discuss and debate the issue of child separation without reverting to some emotional extreme.

The facts are there, yet too many on each side of the aisle won’t concede the following in a simultaneous manner:

  1. We should not apologize for common sense border protection.
  2. We should care about children who cross the border.

More often than not, the Left rejects the first one while the Right collectively rolls their eyes at mention of concern for immigrant kids. Shame on both angles that reject a portion of either truth or compassion in favor of a long-held agenda.

Those somewhere in the middle of the issue, such as myself, who recognize the wrongs existing in each have no problem drawing attention to changes that could be made. Of course, this results in claims of “you don’t care about kids!” or “you don’t want our country protected?” from tribalist fools. It’s become routine at this point.

So far, the best description of both the problem and ways it can be addressed comes from Rich Lowry at National Review. If only each party in the drama would cool down for a few moments and read his take with a clear mind, perhaps some progress would be made.

Ultimately, it is Congress who must act. As my title suggests, this matter is another area they could prudently address, but such an approach would be a stretch for most of its members.

Back to Lowry.

In a piece at the end of May, before reports of child separation grew more frequent, at least from the general public’s perspective, he tackled the issue.


For the longest time, illegal immigration was driven by single males from Mexico. Over the last decade, the flow has shifted to women, children, and family units from Central America. This poses challenges we haven’t confronted before and has made what once were relatively minor wrinkles in the law loom very large.

The Trump administration isn’t changing the rules that pertain to separating an adult from the child. Those remain the same. Separation happens only if officials find that the adult is falsely claiming to be the child’s parent, or is a threat to the child, or is put into criminal proceedings.

Here’s where the new policy changes things.

It’s the last that is operative here. The past practice had been to give a free pass to an adult who is part of a family unit. The new Trump policy is to prosecute all adults. The idea is to send a signal that we are serious about our laws and to create a deterrent against re-entry.

As he explains, migrants who are detained and plead guilty can be quickly processed, reunited with their children, and returned home. When an adult seeks asylum, the process generally takes much longer.

Meanwhile, the migrant children are being cared for (there are some legitimate questions as to how well) by the HHS.


The clock ticking on the time the government can hold a child will almost always run out before an asylum claim is settled. The migrant is allowed ten days to seek an attorney, and there may be continuances or other complications.

This creates the choice of either releasing the adults and children together into the country pending the ajudication of the asylum claim, or holding the adults and releasing the children.

He mentions the Flores consent decree, established in 1997, which limits the time children can be detained. But because of that decree, he says families are not allowed to be held together as a unit. This makes for a huge problem both logistically and politically.

His final point at NRO directs attention at Congress.

Congress can fix this. Congress can change the rules so the Flores consent decree will no longer apply, and it can appropriate more money for family shelters at the border. This is an obvious thing to do that would eliminate the tension between enforcing our laws and keeping family units together.

Elsewhere, he says the same.

…separating parents and children at the border is a significant downside of the Trump policy. Congress can help by fixing the consent decree that makes it impossible to detain kids, even if they are with their parents, and by spending more on detention space. There’s no reason we can’t handle these cases quickly and humanely, except for our insanely self-sabotaging immigration system.


It’s ok, Republican person reading this right now. You are capable of admitting that separating children from their parents is not a positive thing. We shouldn’t support it. In fact, being the party of families and life, we should condemn it. No, I don’t care all that much when it was established. The problem is right here, right now, and there are ways to fix it. Why not support those? This is common sense border protection and you can still wear your bald eagle pro-Trump shirt while stating that.

Is there a downside to allowing family units to remain together? I have yet to hear from anyone in the GOP why such a measure would put our border security at risk.

Sadly, the children are the ones being shuffled around in this immigration game. Parents or relatives crossing the border either want their family units together or selfishly assume having a child with them will change things. There is no reason that swift adjudication aimed at also keeping families together can’t happen.

The Left routinely believes detention of any kind – even parents with their kids – is indecent. The Right is so focused on protection that they overlook some common sense measure that should absolutely be taken.

And so we sit with both sides festering in not only their absurdity, but pure hate.


So while there is a fight to the death over who cares the most for kids or our country, remember, there is a Congressional way to address the separation issue.

If you’re vehemently against finding a solution, then shame on you.

The views expressed here are those of the author and do not represent those of any other individual or entity. Kimberly Ross is a senior contributor at RedState and a contributor to the Washington Examiner’s Beltway Confidential blog. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.


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