The rush of stories and images of children being separated from their parents at our country’s southern border is heartbreaking.
Make no mistake, these families are illegal immigrants. They may be seeking asylum in this country, but they are breaking the law.
Our government is right to enforce our laws and to ensure our borders are secure by preventing those trying to cross illegally into the U.S. Our national security depends on it.
But defending the border by pulling children from the arms of their parents is inhumane and unnecessary. It is un-American.
It is also becoming a public relations disaster for the Trump Administration whose “zero-tolerance” policy of criminally charging adults for crossing illegally while taking their children away from them is being blasted by human rights groups, religious leaders and even Republicans in Congress who view it as heavyhanded.
When federal authorities take an infant away from her mother while she is breastfeeding, which reportedly occurred Thursday in a Texas detention center, there is going to be a backlash.
That backlash prompted House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) to call for a legislative fix on the same day, acknowledging “we don’t want kids to be separated from their parents.”
Our guess is that public pressure will force the new policy to be discontinued in the near future. The reality is that it wasn’t necessary in the first place.
There is no sudden illegal-immigration crisis requiring this new enforcement policy. The government concedes apprehensions at the southwestern border are near historic lows.
The Trump administration interpreted existing laws and court decisions to require adults detained at the border to be incarcerated and the children to be separated from their parents. They could have anticipated the criticism.
Our guess is that the authors of this policy don’t care. They want to look tough on the issue of illegal immigration, one of the pillars of the Trump campaign agenda, and are willing to take the slings and arrows of those who accuse them of needlessly inflicting emotional trauma on hundreds of families. They view the policy as an effective deterrent to the issue of illegal immigration.
There are better ways to deal with this issue. The right response is to make the system work faster, so that those caught entering illegally can be promptly turned away — rather than detained for lengthy stays or released pending a trial date.
This sad episode underscores the need for comprehensive immigration reform. We need better, smarter border controls. But any immigration policy that separates babies from their mothers is disgraceful.