Children as punching bags

To say most Americans are fed up with hypocrisy is perhaps the year's understatement. The latest example of 'child abuse at the border' is worthy of inclusion in the Guinness World Record book. Both political parties are guilty of going completely off the rails with this new media fight over 'the children.'

The current crisis was initiated by a decision by the Trump Administration's Justice Department to fully enforce U.S. immigration law in 100% of illegal border-crossing cases. This involves individuals, families and those thought to be family members including underage children. (Current law mandates a maximum time period of 20 days that children may be held in detention, thereby exacerbating the problem of unaccompanied minor children and creating the media war of words we're experiencing today.)

The main problem is that there have been massive increases in the number of especially unaccompanied minor children (tenfold) and children accompanied by unrelated adults crossing the border, illegally. Second problem: the number of immigrants seeking asylum at other than legitimate U.S. ports of immigrant entry has also dramatically increased making the crisis real and immediate. The third problem is the all-too-open to interpretation reasons for granting asylum. Many applicants, largely from Central American countries, are citing family abuse, gang violence like MS-13 and a general insecurity in their home countries as reasons for coming to the U.S.

Homeland Security and the CBP (Customs and Border Patrol) are required to detain illegal border crossers until their identities can be verified. This goes for the thousands of children both with parents and those who've traveled alone or in the company of an unrelated persons. All must stay somewhere while their cases are being looked at. If a familial connection can be determined before the 20-day detention clock has run out and the family unit has not claimed asylum, they will all be deported.

If a familial connection has been found and a claim for asylum has been made, the petitioner and family will be released into the 'custody' of a friend or family member residing in the U.S. while they await their court date. (The petitioner will later be assigned a court date when they are expected to show up and plead their case and this can take a couple of years because of a 600,000 case backlog). A fourth problem is that the vast majority of them do not show up, choosing instead to go 'underground' and drop off the grid.

It seems that many Democrats and some Republicans as well prefer this heretofore accepted disappearing act to the 'zero tolerance' approach the Trump Administration has chosen. The self-righteousness of the Left's preaching that we are "ripping children from the arms of their parents" (no matter that most of them are not with their parents) has all the imagery of concentration camp arrivals in Nazi Germany, and some have even made that unholy comparison! Make no mistake, this is purposeful, and the choice of the verb 'ripping' has been uniformly adopted by most Left-leaning pundits and/or elected representatives to give the impression of inhumane treatment.

So is the use of the visual of the chain link fence surrounding illegal border crossers in their initial 'arrival holding areas' until room can be found for them in a more comfortable HHS (Dept. of Health and Human Services) facility after their information has been given to authorities. The Left is attempting to paint a picture of "compassionless American thugs guarding innocents" while simultaneously abusing their children. In fact, I would guess that most illegal immigrants in detention centers are probably breathing a sigh of relief that they are finally safe and well-fed and getting medical attention after completing a perilous journey across unforgiving land and in the company of human smugglers who couldn't give a damn about their well-being...because they've already been paid for their transport.

I'm disgusted that the Left is abusing this situation AND THE CHILDREN and is using it to get their candidates elected in November. It's a tragedy that children must pay the price for bad U.S. immigration law that virtually assured them of ending up in this situation. I am equally disgusted at a limp-wristed Congress that has dragged its feet on the issue and angry that Guatemala and Honduras, specifically, haven't gotten their act together and improved their economies and given their own people some modicum of security so they would stay home. Finally, I am extremely disappointed that these people were not detained by the weak-kneed Mexican authorities and turned back before they reached OUR southern border.

There are two bills being readied by the House for consideration in the Senate. The President said he would sign either one. It's long past time for Congressional and Senate Democrats to stop grandstanding and wringing their hands for the cameras about the children and support a solution that would plug the immigration law loopholes that created this problem in the first place. Americans are people with big hearts, but there only so many times you can tug on our heartstrings before they give way. Fix the damn problem.

Stephan Helgesen is a retired career U.S. diplomat who lived and worked in over 30 countries. He is now a political analyst, strategist and author of nine books and over 850 articles on politics, economics and social trends. He can be reached at stephan@stephanhelgesen.com

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