This morning, President Trump tweeted:
Hiring many thousands of judges, and going through a long and complicated legal process, is not the way to go - will always be dysfunctional. People must simply be stopped at the Border and told they cannot come into the U.S. illegally. Children brought back to their country...
...If this is done, illegal immigration will be stopped in it’s [sic] tracks - and at very little, by comparison, cost. This is the only real answer - and we must continue to BUILD THE WALL!
President Trump has never been known for the precision of his language, to say the least, yet within the context of the past two weeks the implication of Trump’s tweets is clear. Congress should change current law so that parents who are accompanied by minor children, and who are caught trying to illegally enter the United States, or who are making unwarranted asylum claims, should be quickly sent back to their home countries, which is known in law as "expedited removal." And President Trump has said he wants parents and children to be detained together, not separated as the law now requires if DHS does not alternately allow illegal alien parents with children to proceed to the interior of the United States with a notice to appear in immigration court at a later date.
With the downright hysteria that has passed for serious reporting on the situation at the border, one may be forgiven for not understanding why it is happening. One reason is the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) signed into law in 2008 by President George W. Bush, which extended and amended a 2000 law passed under President Clinton. The 2008 reauthorization established a different set of rules for unaccompanied alien children (UAC) regarding their care, adjudication of their cases, and their removal from the United States if the UAC is not from Canada or Mexico.
The result of TVPRA was that UACs from Central America were usually permanently placed with parents or other family members already in the United States, often illegally. This led to an increase in UACs directly following the 2008 reauthorization, a leveling off after a few years, and then a massive increase following President Obama’s announcement of DACA in June 2012 (not because of changing conditions in Central America). No doubt President Trump’s insistence on a DACA amnesty before border security and enforcement measures are in place has resulted in the current surge of UACs.
The separation of illegal parents from their children is the result of the Trump Administration's “zero tolerance” policy requiring all aliens apprehended attempting to cross into the United States illegally to be charged with that crime. Federal law prohibits the detention of adults and children together, and the so-called Flores Settlement Agreement mandates that children can only be detained for a short period of time before being turned over to Health and Human Services for eventual placement, if possible, with a relative or guardian. The Trump Administration is correct in its argument that due to the volume of illegal immigration at the border, it is effectively limited to a choice between family separation and catch-and-release.
Trump is attempting to detain illegal alien parents and children together at the border through an executive order. In the absence of Congressional action, the courts will ultimately decide whether or not that executive order will stand. Congress should have dealt with this long ago and could immediately change current policy. The Goodlatte compromise bill (H.R. 4760) would have done so, but it failed to pass because House Speaker Paul Ryan refused to whip the bill. If Ryan had done so, it is very likely the bill would have passed.
Rep. Goodlatte’s bill also contained mandatory E-Verify, which brings us back to President Trump’s morning tweets. Border security measures which include changing how families are detained awaiting the outcome of their cases are necessary. The real answer to preventing illegal immigration is to pass E-Verify.
Almost all illegal aliens apprehended at the border are economic migrants seeking work in the United States, not refugees fleeing persecution. They are coming to seek work from employers who want to pay lower wages and are willing to break the law in order to do so.
Even if the United States builds a 2,000-mile-long impenetrable wall on the southern border (something that is never going to happen), it would do nothing to deter visa overstays, which now account for roughly half of the illegal immigration inflow. If President Trump is truly serious about ending illegal immigration and holding criminal employers to account he must endorse mandatory E-Verify, and he must pressure Paul Ryan to include it in any DACA amnesty bill, along with border security, the elimination of the diversity lottery, and an end to chain migration.
Ryan’s DACA amnesty that was supposed to get a vote in the House last week did not include E-Verify, and it only reallocated diversity and some chain visa categories in order to masquerade as “merit-based” reform. The true intent of Ryan’s bill was to sabotage Rep. Goodlatte’s compromise that President Trump would have signed. If President’s Trump had given strong support to Rep. Goodlatte’s bill last week, and unambiguously said that he would sign it and not Ryan’s version of the Gang of Eight bill, the Goodlatte bill, which came very close to passing, would have gotten enough Republican votes and would be on its way to the Senate.
If President Trump wants to end the problem of illegal immigration that President Reagan promised would be solved after the 1986 amnesty, he can put his Twitter account to good use and call for mandatory E-Verify to be included as the most effective deterrent of illegal immigration. If does not support the inclusion of E-Verify, the outstanding question is: Why Not?
ERIC RUARK is the Director of Research for NumbersUSA
Updated: Mon, Jul 9th 2018 @ 1:55pm EDT