June 21, 2018
There will be no easing into the July 4th holiday for this Congress. The House and Senate are a hive of activity, thanks to the media's delayed reaction to a four-year-old immigration policy. Suddenly, a problem that's been bubbling over since the Obama administration has exploded into a messy political fight that's finally forcing both sides to the table on an issue that's been crying out for Washington's attention for almost two decades. Now, it's up to Democrats to decide which is more important: scoring points in the midterm elections -- or fixing our broken immigration system?
After yesterday's executive order by President Trump, the answer was obvious. The real beef of the Left isn't family separation. If it was, Wednesday's action to stop it would have satisfied them. Instead, we learn the truth: Democrats' real issue with the policy isn't that our government separates families -- but that it detains them at all. Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), one of the Republicans fighting for an overhaul of the immigration system, is starting to understand exactly what the GOP is up against. "Based on Senate speeches Democrat position is: Don't detain children," he tweeted. "Don't detain their parents either so we don't separate families & Don't deport them if they fail to appear for subsequent hearing. So basically if you enter unlawfully with children we won't enforce the law?"
As my guest, forensic expert Dr. Lori Baker, told me on yesterday's "Washington Watch," if we truly care about these children and the persecuted families from Central America, the last thing America should do is stop enforcing the law. That only encourages more of them to embark on a journey that could kill them. She's spent the better part of 16 years collecting the remains of people who didn't survive the border-crossing and knows firsthand how treacherous entering the country illegally can be. For more than a decade and a half, it's been her heart's work to use DNA testing to reunite the victims' remains with their families.
"In summertime, in some of the areas where I've worked, we have two or three cases a day, where we're going out and recovering individuals. So [the deaths] are constant, especially when it's very hot outside. We see a lot of people crossing in the summer, and it's just very dangerous... We have traffickers who aren't honest with people about what they're going to face, so people aren't prepared. They get left behind. And many of these deaths are happening in rural areas like Texas where we don't have medical examiners offices, so there's no investigation... [and] what's really disturbing to me is that some of these cases are homicides ..."
If America continues down this path, we're only creating an incentive for more people to take their lives in their hands. What's humanitarian about that? As even Barack Obama said in a 2014 interview with ABC, "Our message absolutely is don't send your children unaccompanied on trains or through a bunch of smugglers. That is our direct message to families in Central America. 'Do not send your children to the borders. If they do make it, they'll get sent back. More importantly, they may not make it.'" Unfortunately, 10,000 of the 12,000 children in custody are the unaccompanied victims of parents who didn't listen -- and a system that didn't work hard enough to deter them.
Americans desperately want to help these families, but there is a way to show compassion while still upholding the rule of law. This isn't an either/or proposition. That said, the problem is a complicated one. There are worsening conditions in Central America brought on by the countries' corruption and socialistic policies. Dr. Baker talked about that too. "The underlying problem is instability in Latin America. People cannot live in their homeland any longer, because of the violence. We have some of the highest murder rates in places like El Salvador and Honduras of nations that are not at war. The number of homicides happening there is so outrageously high, and there's no rule of law. People are going to keep coming until there's stability..."
So there's a foreign policy component that will encourage growth and stability in the countries to our south, but there's also our broken immigration system and disregard for the rule of law. These elements -- combined with the lax enforcement under the previous administration -- brought about this crisis. So yes, we want to be compassionate, and we also have to be logical and reasonable -- not just for America's sake, but for the sake of these children, many of whom are being smuggled across dangerous terrain by traffickers who aren't even their parents. Just in the last couple of years, there's been a 315 percent spike in adults claiming kids at the border who were not theirs.
That's because, as Dr. Baker points out, "It's very difficult to seek asylum if you're an adult man. But if you're an adult man traveling with a child, you have a better chance of being granted asylum. So what we've seen are these men coercing these children into saying that this is their father. We need to verify what's going on." That's where DNA testing like hers comes into play. In a matter of 48 hours, U.S. officials could have conclusive evidence that would help them make better decisions about how to care for these kids.
In the meantime, the executive order (which a large majority of Hispanic Americans support) was just the beginning. America and the world desperately need Congress to cooperate on an immigration policy that's just, fair, family-friendly, and enforceable. "We're going to keep families together," the president promised, "but we still have to maintain toughness or our country will be overrun by people, by crime, by all of the things that we don't stand for and that we don't want."
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.