Before the ink was even dry from President Donald Trump’s signing of the executive order ending the practice of separating illegal immigrant children from their families at the U.S.-Mexico border, Democrats were already criticizing it.
That was fast.
But the immigration debate in this country is far from over. Congress needs to act now.
The whole child separation issue stems from the 1997 Flores settlment to a class-action lawsuit from the 1980s. The case was about the “detention and release” of minors who were taken into custody by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS).
The two sides settled the case under the terms that minors would be released to their parents or relatives with no unnecessary delay. However, the terms also stated that if such placement is unavailable — meaning, for example, if the child’s parent is a threat to them or is undergoing criminal proceedings — the government must put the child in the “least restrictive” accommodations. Hence, the child separation.
Before the Trump Administration’s “zero tolerance” policy, illegal immigrants entering through the Southern border with children were not criminally prosecuted. Rather, they were placed in family detention centers or sometimes released with the order to attend a future court date. The Trump Administration’s policy to prosecute each case criminally requires — under the Flores settlement — that children be separated and detained in appropriate accommodations. This is when the national outrage began.
Trump’s executive order essentially said that he will continue prosecuting those coming into this country illegally, but will not separate children. This is in direct contradiction to what is required by the Flores settlement. Congress must act to make legislation that revokes the Flores settlement.
Before Trump signed the order, he called on Congress to permanently fix the immigration crisis with a full plan. Democratic leader Chuck Schumer declined.
“There are so many obstacles to legislation and when the president can do it with his own pen, it makes no sense,” Schumer said on Tuesday. “Legislation is not the way to go here when it’s so easy for the president to sign it.”
Schumer went even further, blaming Republicans and essentially saying his job in Congress is useless:
“How many times has immigration legislation passed in this Congress? How many times? Zero. It’s an excuse from our Republican colleagues who feel the heat, don’t want to attack the president, even though they know, they know legislation will take a very long time and is unlikely to happen, and the flick of a president’s pen could solve this tomorrow.”
Well, now he has signed it, as Schumer wanted, but this cannot be the end. The executive order will surely be challenged in the courts, and it will surely get tossed.
All this does is buy Congress some time to do its job. So, can it get to work already?