Illegal Immigration: The latest outrage by the Trump administration is its policy of "ripping" children away from parents who've crossed the border illegally. As with so many other things involving Trump, there's plenty of emotion but precious little in the way of facts.
The furor reached critical mass after the Department of Homeland Security said on Friday that 1,995 children had been separated from their illegal border crossing parents from mid-April through May. That number included, DHS said, cases where the adults were arrested for illegal entry, immigration violations, or possible criminal conduct.
The practice has generated a rising storm of protests, including from Republicans, ever since Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the administration's "zero tolerance" for illegal border crossers. Laura Bush took to the Washington Post's op-ed page to decry it as "cruel" and "immoral." Trump supporter Franklin Graham called it "disgraceful."
Trump himself says he doesn't want to see families separated while the legal process works its way out, and then went on to blame Democrats for the problem.
So what's going on here?
First, it's important to note that many of the "separations" don't last long at all.
As Rich Lowry explains in a detailed article in National Review, "when a migrant is prosecuted for illegal entry, he or she is taken into custody by the U.S. Marshals," in which case, as when other adults are incarcerated in the U.S., they are separated from their children.
Lowry notes that "The criminal proceedings are exceptionally short, assuming there is no aggravating factor such as a prior illegal entry or another crime. Migrants generally plead guilty, and then are sentenced to time served, typically all in the same day."
The Los Angeles Times reports that Rio Grande Valley border agents prosecuted 568 adults and separated 1,174 children since the administration announced its "zero tolerance" policy in early April. However, it only took a matter of hours to reunite more than a third of these children with their parents.
That hardly constitutes an inhumane policy of "ripping" children away from their parents.
Most of the concern about family separations centers on the administration's handling of asylum seekers who've crossed the border illegally.
In the past, the practice has been to simply detain these families for a short time in an ICE facility. But rather than return for their asylum hearing, many just disappeared into the country.
Under the "zero tolerance" policy, Trump has tried to put an end to this "catch and release" policy, by arresting every adult caught illegally crossing the border.
If parents choose to seek asylum, they can end up separated from their children for months while the asylum process plays out.
The administration is right to point out, however, that there is a legal process for seeking asylum that won't involve facing such a choice — just show up at a port of entry to make the asylum claim.
"As I have said many times before, if you are seeking asylum for your family, there is no reason to break the law and illegally cross between ports of entry," Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen tweeted over the weekend.
Critics complain that the legal process just takes too long, as a way to justify illegal border crossings.
But illegal border crossers are not only jumping the line. Under the old system they could vastly increase their chances of staying in the country — with or without gaining asylum status.
Is it wrong for Trump to try to close this unfair and potentially dangerous loophole?
Another fact conveniently overlooked amid all the hysteria is that just because a group claims to be a family, doesn't mean it's true.
The Department of Homeland Security says that from October 2017 to February 2018 it saw "a 315% increase in the number of cases with minors fraudulently posing as 'family units' to gain entry."
Presumably that's because they think posing as a family will improve their chances of avoiding deportation. Whatever the reason, those children's separation from their parents occurred long before the border patrol showed up.
What To Do?
To be sure, the administration's bungling response to the outcry over its policies has made it harder to understand, much less defend, what's going on.
But those protesting family separations should at least acknowledge that there are reforms available that don't involve returning to the days of "catch and release," while still keeping families together — which is the ideal solution — such as letting children stay in detention centers for more than 20 days, and boosting funds for family shelters at the border.
Getting such reforms done in today's massively polarized environment, however, is unlikely.
The question is, who's to blame for that?