Today President Trump signed an executive order directing that illegal alien families be detained together at the border. You can read the text of the order here. Importantly, President Trump is not backing off from his “no-tolerance” policy, so bringing children along to the border will not be a get out of jail free card, as it was during the Obama administration. Here are some relevant portions of the order:
It is the policy of this Administration to rigorously enforce our immigration laws. Under our laws, the only legal way for an alien to enter this country is at a designated port of entry at an appropriate time. When an alien enters or attempts to enter the country anywhere else, that alien has committed at least the crime of improper entry and is subject to a fine or imprisonment under section 1325(a) of title 8, United States Code. This Administration will initiate proceedings to enforce this and other criminal provisions of the INA until and unless Congress directs otherwise. It is also the policy of this Administration to maintain family unity, including by detaining alien families together where appropriate and consistent with law and available resources. It is unfortunate that Congress’s failure to act and court orders have put the Administration in the position of separating alien families to effectively enforce the law.
Trump is correct about the role played by existing law, in particular, the Flores consent decree, which bars the government from holding minors for more than 20 days. Unless the administration gets relief from that order, it will not be possible to keep alien families together where they have entered the country illegally and the parent requests asylum. Asylum requests take considerably longer than 20 days to resolve. But other portions of the order try to address this problem.
(a) The Secretary of Homeland Security (Secretary), shall, to the extent permitted by law and subject to the availability of appropriations, maintain custody of alien families during the pendency of any criminal improper entry or immigration proceedings involving their members.
As I understand it, maintaining custody of minor members of alien families beyond 20 days is not currently “permitted by law,” so this is a significant qualification. The order also is explicitly dependent on adequate appropriations being made.
The Attorney General shall promptly file a request with the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California to modify the Settlement Agreement in Flores v. Sessions, CV 85-4544 (“Flores settlement”), in a manner that would permit the Secretary, under present resource constraints, to detain alien families together throughout the pendency of criminal proceedings for improper entry or any removal or other immigration proceedings.
Unless this relief is obtained promptly, it may not be possible to keep all illegal alien families together despite today’s order.
The Attorney General shall, to the extent practicable, prioritize the adjudication of cases involving detained families.
This makes sense, but it is doubtful whether asylum requests can be processed within 20 days even if given priority. There is currently a backlog of hundreds of thousands of asylum cases.
Because of the order’s qualifications and the need to change the Flores consent decree, this story may not be over yet. But already it is being hailed as a climb-down by the administration. CNBC, by no means one of the most hostile media outlets, crowed:
The president backs down after insisting that only Congress can end his administration’s policy of separating families crossing the border illegally.
It will also be claimed that Trump has thrown Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen under the bus. Nielsen has come under outrageous attacks from the Left as a result of her defense of the administration’s position, as in this press briefing. As best I can tell, everything Nielsen said in that press briefing is correct, but multiple news organizations have reported as a fact that she “lied.” And last night, a gang of socialists harangued her as she was eating dinner at a Washington restaurant. This kind of thing should be considered absolutely unacceptable, but it is becoming common on the Left.
Meanwhile, both the House and the Senate are proceeding with legislation to address the faux crisis of separated children. If you followed the news over the last few days, you would think that the biggest calamity since the Civil War is taking place. This despite the fact that not a single child or young person has come to harm while in the custody of DHS or HHS. It will be interesting to see whether the Democrats filibuster this legislation in the Senate, as Chuck Schumer has threatened.
Liberals have been playing a cynical game, misrepresenting the facts and relying on emotion to whip up hatred of the administration. The last thing they care about is illegal alien children. (Or, as many have pointed out, the much larger number of American children who are separated from parents because the parents commit crimes and go to prison, just as the illegal alien parent has committed the crime of illegal entry.) I agree with Michael Ramirez’s evaluation. Click to enlarge:
PAUL ADDS: The folks who harangued Secretary of Nielsen were members of the Washington, D.C., chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America. One of them, Allison Hrabar, works for the Department of Justice.