What the media isn't telling you about Trump and immigration

Democrats want to keep the focus on Trump, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) reportedly responded when asked if he would support a GOP-led bill to stop family separation of illegal immigrants on the border.

With these eye-opening words, Democrats sunk to a new low, putting politics above people once again. Never mind the fact that President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump: I hope voters pay attention to Dem tactics amid Kavanaugh fight South Korea leader: North Korea agrees to take steps toward denuclearization Graham calls handling of Kavanaugh allegations 'a drive-by shooting' MORE has explicitly said, “I hate the children being taken away,” calling the separation of families “horrible” before ultimately issuing an executive order to end the practice Wednesday.

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In reality, if Democrats truly cared about solutions to our immigration crisis they would have done so long ago — like in 2009, when they controlled the entire federal government and maintained a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.

 

Meanwhile, the media continues to perpetuate mistruths designed to demonize the Trump presidency, making false and misleading claims that Trump instituted a new policy to separate illegal immigrant children from their parents.

Key facts were missing from the oversimplified “Trump separated parents from children” narrative. Namely, the following:

“Separation” guidelines did not change

The Obama administration separated immigrant children from accompanying adults in two cases: (1) if the child was in danger or (2) if the accompanying adult was being prosecuted.

The Trump administration did not alter these guidelines. What did change, however, is that the Trump administration — unlike Obama — is enforcing the law passed by Congress which makes it a crime to cross the border illegally. Trump’s so-called “zero tolerance” policy is really just a manifestation of Article II of the Constitution, which states plainly that the president “shall take care that the Laws be faithfully executed.”

As Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenInvestigation into FEMA head referred to prosecutors: report Gowdy requests FEMA administrator’s travel records amid allegations The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — Kavanaugh confirmation in sudden turmoil MORE pointed out:

“Surely it is the beginning of the unraveling of democracy when the body who makes the laws, instead of changing them, tells the enforcement body not to enforce the law.

Immigration “loopholes” must change

Loopholes like 1997’s Flores settlement, which does not permit children to be detained for more than 20 days, have the unintended effect of separating children from still-detained parents after a 20-day period because, as Rich Lowry wrote:

“Adults (claiming asylum) are almost certainly going to be detained longer than the government is allowed to hold their children. ... So even if we want to hold a family unit together, we are forbidden from doing so.”

Similarly, the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) does not permit minors from non-contiguous countries (i.e. Central American countries) to be sent home in an expedited fashion.

These laws, combined with our broken asylum system, create a situation where families are separated when the law is enforced. In an ordinary case of expedited removal the separation period is brief. The individual who entered illegally is prosecuted and reunited with his or her child, but the issue is thus more complicated if the parent applies for asylum. Congress has the power to supplement the president's executive order and change the status quo by overriding the Flores Settlement Agreement or amending the TVPRA.

Responsible HHS child custody

While an adult illegal entrant is prosecuted, the accompanying child goes into Health and Human Services (HHS) custody. In 2018, 90 percent of children taken in by HHS in 2018 were placed with a parent, relative or another sponsor in the U.S. For those remaining in HHS care, an average of $775 per day is spent on each immigrant child. As for the 90 percent of unaccompanied minors placed with relatives or sponsors, in 2015 the Office of Refugee Resettlement began making voluntary calls to unaccompanied minors to ensure they are placed in a safe environment — a practice still enforced by the Trump administration today.

Influx of traffickers, smugglers

“We’re going to keep focusing enforcement resources on actual threats to our security,” Obama announced in 2014. “Felons, not families. Criminals, not children.”

This announcement and the policy of “catch and release” sent a signal to aspiring illegal entrants: If you arrive with a child, your chances of being released into the U.S. interior increase. Accordingly, we have seen an influx of “family units” crossing the border. Pew reported in 2016:

Apprehensions of children and their families at the U.S.-Mexico border since October 2015 have more than doubled from a year ago and now outnumber apprehensions of unaccompanied children.

We have also seen an uptick in wrongdoers taking advantage of the Obama-era policy, with Nielsen noting a 314 percent increase of adults and children “fraudulently claiming to be a family unit.”

Growth of MS-13

A ticking time bomb” is how an educator recently characterized MS-13, violent gang known for its inhumane tactics, to the Washington Post. “Dozens of schools from Northern Virginia to Long Island to Boston are dealing with a resurgence of MS-13,” the Post notes before acknowledging that “the gang’s growth has been fueled by a wave of 200,000 teens who traveled to the United States alone to escape poverty and gang violence in Central America.”

During Operation Matador — an ICE operation to stop MS-13 in New York — the Trump administration apprehended 274 MS-13 gang members, 99 of which arrived as unaccompanied minors and were released into society. Stemming the surge of MS-13 gang members means enforcing the law, prosecuting illegal border crossers, and amending the TVPRA. At the same time, the administration recognized the legitimate and credible fear of asylum seekers, which is why Nielsen stated clearly: 

“If an adult enters at a port of entry and claims asylum, they will not face prosecution for illegal entry.”

President Trump, for his part, has issued an executive order to do what the executive branch can to stop the separation of families at the border, but as Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSanders hits Feinstein over Kavanaugh allegations: Now it’s clear why she did nothing for months On The Money: Senate approves 4B spending bill | China imposes new tariffs on billion in US goods | Ross downplays new tariffs: 'Nobody's going to actually notice' McConnell tamps down any talk of Kavanaugh withdrawal MORE (R-Ky.) has stated, fully solving the problem “requires a legislative solution.”

Rather than demonizing the Trump administration, true advocates for change should be calling for congressional action. President Trump is enforcing U.S. immigration law, and in doing so, protecting the well-being and in some cases the lives of U.S. citizens.

Kayleigh McEnany is the national spokesperson for the Republican National Committee. Before joining the RNC, she was a CNN political commentator. She earned her law degree from Harvard Law School and her bachelor’s degree in foreign service from Georgetown University. The views expressed here are solely the author's.