OPINION | Ken Pittman: Migrant Separation Blame is Shared
The separating of illegal migrant families and alleged families falls on two things that find us all pointing the fingers regarding President Trump's stepped-up policy to deter illegal entry.
The first is, after years of turning a blind eye to enforcement before Trump actually enforced the parts of the immigration law (see Sections 211-212 in particular) that actually call for internships and for facilities that provide housing for children, we're seeing what it actually looks like now that it is actually enacted. There was a budget for training government workers to humanely help these migrant minors in the facilities in this 2008 act.
The law to house all illegal migrant children in government facilities was passed unanimously by the Democratic-controlled Congress in 2008, and signed into law by President George W. Bush. Granted, the law did not specifically call for separating parents and children, but the law also had no specific plan for the common scenario. Bush and Obama officials saw the lack of keeping families together in the 2008 Act language, but instead of fixing or amending the lack of protections from separation in this scenario, they just decided it was too mean or inhumane to separate, and a verbal policy was what prevented separation of kin in those years.
Rather reckless in hindsight.
Without thoughtful consideration of the ages of family members caught during the illegal entrance, no facility plan was crafted for this fairly obvious and very common scenario. The reality is, you cannot incarcerate children where the adult migrants are held in large numbers, and that is obviously in the name of protecting the children. Here I blame President George W. Bush, a Republican, as well as then-U.S. Senate president Harry Reid (D-NV) and then-Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) for not insisting on the bill to protect family members from separation. Surely they were at some point, made aware of the lack of dealing with that before the bill became law.
One does not need to see who voted and how with this law, since it passed unanimously.
Failure to enforce the immigration laws during the Bush and Obama years have understandably allowed migrants to believe there would be no consequences for crossing the border illegally. Confusing to them, and it's an opportunity for the "open borders" crowd to declare the enforcement is "fascist Nazi racism."
So the ignoring of the laws seems to be, and is, confusing to the migrants...and who could blame them?
The second mistake is the decision to cross in the first place. The adult illegal migrants absolutely know they are not welcomed here in this way. They know there is a process that they have decided to ignore. There are pamphlets handed out as far south as Brazil which instruct each and every immigrant coming here illegally, how to avoid detection, and then if caught, how to make asylum claims.
Eighty-eight percent of adults released after being caught in the country illegally, default on court hearings. Eighty-eight percent! That means the status quo of "catch and release" has a 12 percent success ratio. Trump is absolutely right to have Border Patrol hold the adults until the scheduled hearings, and you CANNOT put children in adult holding centers, for their own protection. It's not ideal, but I refuse to side with the madness we are seeing.
Most of the children in these centers were unaccompanied. Many others have been determined to lie to authorities about who the adults were that showed up to take them away from the housing they were in. The Obama Administration has had to concede that they in fact released children into the hands of people claiming to be parent or guardian, and after they disappeared, discovered later that these individuals were not ever confirmed to be a legal guardian and were actually human traffickers, some of them sex traffickers of underage victims.
A 2016 Inspector General report showed that the federal government was able to reach only 84 percent of children it had placed, leaving 4,159 unaccounted for. Some "fact-checking" sites have changed the number by offering weak theories that "might mean" illegal immigrant guardians just didn't respond, since they themselves are in hiding.
Don't we owe it to the kids who we put into the hands of people that we now realize were not their guardians or parents, an investigation into their well-being? The Obama Administration didn't think so. The attempt instead was to bury these disturbing facts as long as possible, not counting on an I.G. report to unveil the derelict, irresponsible process to not confirm exactly who was taking these children away.
While the Democrats show up in droves to excoriate the situation, they do so knowing the current numbers of unaccompanied and accompanied children storming the border is overwhelming the ability to house them. Even a former Walmart has been make-shifted to use as shelter by the government as workers frantically race to make accommodations.
Who in America, without documentation, can go to even a local school in their own town and pick up their own child without proper documentation? These migrants have no identification. Many of these underage migrants travel to reach their parents already here in the states. It's very dangerous business, in particular for the most vulnerable, like children. They travel with small groups and with adults they may feel comfortable enough to trust them to lead the way, but in many, many cases, they are not truthful about just who is who once intercepted by U.S. authorities.
But when Nancy Pelosi went to the Texas-Mexican border to inspect the facility she visited yesterday, she is counting on you not knowing that she knew damn well about these places when she voted for them as Speaker of the House in 2008. She is counting on the idiocy of the left to parrot the outrage and blame the current president.
There are hundreds of thousands, if not millions, who sit in the same dire circumstances and wait for the various U.S.embassies in their nations to inform them that it is their turn to enter America. We accept 500,000 legal migrants annually. These people wait much longer because of illegal immigrants cutting the line.
By the way, for those of you who think this is just so wrong, these kids are not exactly suffering. Sure, they are anxious about being separated from their parents, but the process is explained to them. They are getting clean rooms, beds (the first beds many have ever slept in), healthcare, deloused, the best food of their lives, etc.
Last, if you object to separation of families upon arrest, where have you been in your own neighborhoods? Hundreds of American citizens are arrested every day and in every state during traffic stops for outstanding warrants, for shoplifting, or other such crimes right in front of their children, and what happens there? They are separated! Parents go to jail, and Child and Family Services take the kids away until the parent makes bail or a confirmed family member can take the child from the social service facility.
So before you who disagree with me, or somehow decide to call me a racist, know that I, too, wish to end any deliberate separation between parents and their actual children crossing together.
- They should be carrying ID whenever possible to prove who family members are, which would quicken reunification.
- Democrats can amend their law with Republicans and provide for facilities which can house family members together during this hot mess of our immigration chaos, long enough for their day in court, unless they wish to return home sooner than the court date.
- Acceptable identification records proving identification in the nations where the migrants are coming from need to be readily accessible to immigration authorities, in order to protect the children and help parents get back to them sooner. International cooperation needs to be demanded and accomplished.
Ken Pittman is the host of The Ken Pittman Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon. Contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @RadioKenPittman. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.