June 15, 2018
Now that President Trump's scored big points for his historic meeting with Kim Jong Un, his opponents are desperate to change the subject. Anxious to turn the country's attention away from the administration's diplomatic success, they've returned to an issue that the Congress has repeatedly failed to resolve -- immigration.
Yesterday's Washington Post got the ball rolling with an inside look at one of the 100 shelters where children, whose parents were arrested for entering America illegally, are housed. The article couldn't help but tug on heartstrings, since almost 1,500 boys are living in a warehouse-sized summer camp, separated from their parents when they crossed the border illegally. What was once a Walmart super center is now full of classrooms, medical rooms, basketball courts, and even a pool hall. Juan Sanchez, who manages the nonprofit that's housing the kids, says that the circumstances are difficult, especially for kids struggling to adapt, but promises, "We're trying to do the best that we can taking care of these children. Our goal ultimately is to reunite kids with their families," he said. "We're not a detention center... What we operate are shelters that take care of kids. It's a big, big difference."
Obviously, the situation is a tragic one for thousands of children, who are the innocent victims of their moms' and dads' decision to break the law. It's impossible to feel anything but compassion for these kids, who must be dealing with a great deal of pain and confusion. But the origin of that pain and confusion isn't U.S. law or the Trump administration. That burden lies with their parents who knowingly put them in this position. "If you are smuggling a child," Attorney General Jeff Sessions has said, "then we will prosecute you and that child will be separated from you as required by law. If you don't like that, then don't smuggle children over our border."
Attorney General Jeff Sessions defended the White House's position on Wednesday, telling a gathering, "Persons who violate the law of our nation are subject to prosecution. I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order." Critics quickly attacked the AG's comments -- with particularly harsh criticism from those on the Far Left, many of whom don't appreciate scriptural references unless it can be twisted to justify their agenda.
Thursday, reporters took out their frustration on Press Secretary Sarah Sanders press conference, asking how the administration could possibly defend a policy that prosecutes adults for crossing the border illegally. Sanders stood her ground. "...[It's] very biblical to enforce the law. That is actually repeated a number of times throughout the Bible," she said. "It's a moral policy to follow and enforce the law." And, she went on, if you're looking for someone to blame for this situation, try Democrats. "The separation of illegal families... is the product of the same legal loopholes that Democrats refuse to close, and these laws are the same that have been on the books for over a decade. The president is simply enforcing them." President Trump echoed that sentiment earlier: "I hate the children being taken away. The Democrats have to change their law. That's their law... That's the Democrats' law. We can change it tonight. We can change it right now."
When all else is equal, of course we want families to stay together. But let's also remember that this situation isn't unique to the border. I can tell you from my time in law enforcement: If a parent or parents are arrested here in the states, the children are turned over to Child Protection Services, who holds them until a foster family can be identified. In both circumstances, the children are compassionately cared for -- not held in dank rooms behind bars, as some liberals would have you believe. As immigration officials have said, "Our goal is to reunite these children with their families as soon as we can do that." But if parents aren't deterred by the consequences of breaking the law, the fault lies solely with them. If these families are looking for a way to stay together, here's an idea: come to America through the legal immigration process rather than crossing the border illegally.
Let's also consider the precedent it would create if we didn't enforce the law. Are liberals suggesting that we shouldn't incarcerate anyone who has kids? Are children the new get-out-of-jail-free card? As Sessions said, "If you bring a child, it is still an unlawful act. You don't get immunity if you bring a child with you. We cannot have open borders for adults with children."
I'm not suggesting that our laws don't need work -- or that this crisis isn't urgent. They do, and it is. I've felt strongly about this issue for years, so much so that I included immigration as a core value in my first book, Personal Faith, Public Policy. Maybe these new small faces of the immigration crisis will prompt Congress to work across lines and unite in an effort to reform an immigration system that's dividing families and our country.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.