Russell Wangersky (“Suffer the children,” June 19) seems to think that the solution to children of illegal immigrants being separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border is simple and obvious.
When confronted with an illegal immigrant accompanied by children, the U.S. Immigration authorities have three options.
One: lock up the adults and the children in the immigration detention centre until their case is resolved. This is precisely the “locking children up in cages” scenario that horrifies Wangersky; it’s also illegal, since U.S. Federal Court judges ruled, many years ago, that children cannot be held in detention centres for more than 20 days. So that option is off the table.
The second option is to release both adults and children within the 20-day period, knowing there is an 80 per cent chance they won’t show up for their immigration hearing. The authorities cannot release a child into the custody of an adult without at least confirming that said adult is not a human trafficker who will abandon the child in the middle of the Arizona desert. This has happened, by the way.
The third option is to do what the Trump administration is — or was — doing, which is to keep the adults in a detention centre until their case is resolved, while handing the children over to some sort of child protective service.
Some, if not most, of these children have probably travelled 500 miles on dirt roads in the back of a truck, or been dragged for two days across the Arizona desert in searing heat, without enough water to stay hydrated. It is at least possible that being separated from their alleged parents, given a bed, a hot shower, three meals a day, and a soccer field is not going to be the most traumatic thing that has ever happened to them.
As H. L. Mencken once said, “For every complex problem, there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.”
Illegal child immigration is a complex problem, of course. We need to stop pretending that the simple, obvious solution must be right.