The Howling About Separating Illegal Immigrants From Their Kids Is Just an Attack on Enforcing Immigration Laws

Guatemalan immigrant Amariliz Ortiz joins families impacted by the immigration raids during a rally calling on the Obama Administration to protect Central American women and children seeking refuge in the United States. (AP Photo / Nick Ut)

Guatemalan immigrant Amariliz Ortiz joins families impacted by the immigration raids during a rally calling on the Obama Administration to protect Central American women and children seeking refuge in the United States. (AP Photo / Nick Ut)


The Trump administration is currently under attack by people from both sides of the political aisle for trying to actually administer federal law as written by Congress. The law, of course, is federal immigration law and the problem is that an alliance of administrations, Republican and Democrat, decided, for different reasons, that ignoring illegal immigration, or making a show of enforcing it for us rubes who are concerned about it, was preferable in every way to actually enforcing the law of the land. Unfortunately, the Trump administration seems set on carrying out President Trump’s campaign promises and that is causing angst everywhere. And predictable hyperbole.

This is, as I see it, the situation. It really isn’t complicated. It is a very basic exercise is what in military operations is known as “branches and sequels.” (Keep in mind that persons following the law and presenting themselves at border crossing points and declaring they are seeking asylum are not separated from their children. This is solely about illegal immigrants.) Actions take place that lead to either alternative steps or next steps.

When people cross and they are apprehended, what do you do? Do you send them back across the border, if they are Mexican, and let them try again at some other place? If they are other than Mexican (OTM), do you detain them or do you cite them an let them go? Or do you, as has been our policy since April 18, detain all crossers, charge them with a misdemeanor offense, get a guilty plea, and deport them?

If you are asking why anyone would bother showing up for a hearing that will result in their deportation rather than simply disappearing, then you have just identified the key reason why we are unable to control illegal immigration.

If you want to detain illegals then you have to decide what to do with them. Unaccompanied adults isn’t a problem. Unaccompanied children, like those who swamped the border during the last couple of years of the Obama administration, really aren’t a problem either. The problem is minors accompanied by adults, who may or may not be related to them, which are classified as “families.”

CREDIT: Graph is from The Economist


When a “family” is apprehended crossing illegally you have a whole new range of problems. The adults are going to be charged and processed and deported. What do you do with the children while this happens? You have three options. You can parole the children to relatives already residing in the US legally. This brings with it another array of issues. Before the government can do that, it has to do at least a cursory background check on the “relatives” to ensure they are related to the children and that the home is suitable. So you still have the “what do we do with them now?” problem. You could, in theory, establish “family” detention centers. This, of course, brings its own difficulties. We know a non-trivial number of the adult members of these family groups aren’t actually related to the children, they are smugglers. Statistically, a certain number of the adults will be criminals. How do you run a co-ed (“mothers” and “fathers” will be detained here) facility with children and protect the vulnerable from being assaulted, sexually or otherwise? What about those cases, which exist, of children being brought across in sex trafficking operations? Do you want to house them with their captor?

This leads us to the obvious solution in which the paramount concern is the safety of the child. Your options are either a pre-certified foster care facility or a more industrial scale mass detention facility. In both cases, “families are ripped apart.”

At one time, we conservatives mocked liberals for trying to make policy based on feelings. And yet, in this case, that is exactly what is happening. If you read Laura Bush’s op-ed today, it is a triumph of feelings over reality. At no point in the op-ed does Mrs. Bush pose a solution..other than returning to the status quo ante where crossing into the US with children was a get-out-of-jail-free card if you were apprehended. What the Trump administration is doing is correct. If Congress doesn’t like the optics, Congress should act. We should not make people who drag their kids across the border into martyrs of government oppression. These people have exactly one person to blame for their kids being taken away for a few days. Themselves.

Placing adults of unknown background and children in a detention facility together is going to lead to a lot of very bad things happening. This will lead to another outcry about the inhumanity of detaining “families” altogether. This will lead to the return of the catch-and-release policy. This creates more DREAMers. And makes crossing into the US with children the preferred method of travel.

It is difficult to view this debate, and who is saying what, and not come to the conclusion that this is more of a reaction to the Trump administration’s attempt to be serious about protecting our borders than it is about anything to do with separating children from alleged parents. It is much more about preventing the Border Patrol and Immigration from doing their job than it is about any kind of humanitarian impulse.

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