Within days of the Trump administration announcing that it intended to scrap a 1997 court decree known as the Flores settlement that prohibited holding illegal immigrant children for more than 20 days, 19 states and the District of Columbia announced they are filing suit to stop the change, including Nevada.
In a press release reporting Nevada’s joining the litigation, Attorney General Aaron Ford said, “This latest Trump Administration policy to keep children in cages for an indefinite period of time is both cruel and shameful. What’s more, it reverses a longstanding court-approved settlement concerning the humane treatment of immigrant children. I stand with other states in fighting this attack on our children and families using every legal tool at my disposal.”
The problem is that the status quo is untenable.
The Flores settlement has resulted in the Southern border being overrun by illegal immigrant families. Nearly half a million such “families” have crossed into the U.S. and turned themselves in so far this year. That is triple the number for all of the previous year and 30 times the number from just seven years ago.
These “families” are being released into the U.S. pending immigration hearings for which the vast majority never show up.
An op-ed in The Wall Street Journal recently noted that this catch and release policy has created a powerful incentive for people, largely from Central America, to cross the border and make specious asylum claims.
“It also created an incentive for smugglers to offer huge discounts to anyone traveling with a child. Instead of attempting to evade Border Patrol, as they do with single adults, smugglers could simply bring migrant families up to the south side of the Rio Grande and tell them when to cross. Families were told to find a Border Patrol agent, turn themselves in, and not worry — they’d soon be released,” the op-ed by John Daniel Davidson, a senior fellow at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, recounts.
Davidson said children have become “passports” into the U.S. and officials have encountered thousands of fake families and instances in which children are being “recycled” — crossing the border multiple times with different adults posing as parents.
The original Flores settlement declared that children could not be held in custody with unrelated adults for more than 24 hours, but the current catch and release program allows those same children to be released into the custody of unrelated adults, many of whom are in the country illegally themselves.
According to Davidson, the number of minors ordered deported after failing to appear for an immigration hearing has risen from 519 in 2010 to 6,700 in 2018. That’s just the minors.
Ford’s press release argues that the administration’s attempted change in detention practices “would result in the vast expansion of family detention centers, which are not state licensed facilities and have historically caused increased trauma in children. The rule will lead to prolonged detention for children with significant long-term negative health consequences. In addition, the attorneys general argue the rule violates both the Administrative Procedure Act and the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”
But the greater harm is due to Congress failing to act and require the immediate deportation of persons, whether in a family unit or not, who enter the country illegally.
The 20 attorneys general filing suit are all Democrats.
Ford is not acting in the best interest of Nevada taxpayers, who already are paying to educate the highest percentage of children of illegal immigrants in the nation — 17.6 percent, according to Pew Research. Ford should withdraw from this litigation and let the administration at least come up with a plan before suing.
A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel, Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.