June 29, 2018
The State Department puts together a report on international human trafficking every year -- but yesterday's edition got a little more attention than usual. After an emotional month debating immigration policy, Secretary Mike Pompeo's team may have just helped the administration make its case.
Tempers ran high on the issue of family separation at the border -- a problem the president corrected by executive order last week. But, as the Trafficking in Persons Report points out, one of the reasons the government was keeping adults and children apart is because they were concerned that these kids were being exploited by people who weren't actually their parents. A large number, as Attorney General Jeff Sessions told me himself, U.S. officials can't assume these children are actually related to the men and women who bring them across the border. Sometimes, they're being trafficked by people posing as their parents in hopes that they'll get preferential treatment. 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.
So while the policy of temporary separation may not have been the best solution, it was a precaution border officials were willing to take to verify that these kids weren't being smuggled into the country -- so that they don't release them into the hands of bad people who will just turn around and sell them into human slavery.
Dr. Lori Baker, who joined me on "Washington Watch" last week, uses DNA testing to find the families of the victims who die trying to enter the country illegally. But that same technology could also be put to good use verifying the families of these kids. "It's very difficult to seek asylum if you're an adult man," Dr. Baker explained. "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.
As the State Department warned, "Children in institutional care, including government-run facilities, can be easy targets for traffickers." They're targets on the way in and targets once they're there. That's why we need a policy of zero tolerance to help stem the tide. As we've said throughout this whole debate, there's a way to be compassionate and still respect the rule of law. But there has to be a way to protect children too -- or else we've failed America and them.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.