Just in time for the Pope’s arrival, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, of which I’m a member, has issued a histrionic report accusing the government of mistreating detained illegal aliens—with particular hysterics directed toward the detention of children. The Commission itself conducted no independent investigation into the conditions in which unaccompanied alien children (“UAC”) are held. Nor whether they come to the United States primarily for safety, to rejoin family, or for economic opportunity. Nor whether their claims for asylum are true. Instead of facts, the Commission plays to emotion to deflect clear-eyed, serious consideration of immigration policy.
For example, a story in the report of a girl named Mirabel (which the Commission cribbed from a news story rather than any independent investigation) is intended to tug at the heartstrings. Mirabel, age 16, says that she came to the United States to escape an abusive father in Honduras and for a better education. Assuming her story is true, she’s in a difficult situation, one that naturally evokes sympathy. Yet it still doesn’t adequately explain why she should be given asylum in the United States despite coming here illegally. If you’re going to move to escape parental (as opposed to governmental) abuse, it’s easier and cheaper to move to another city in your own country (or, if that isn’t far enough away, Guatemala or Mexico, which Mirabel had to pass through before reaching the United States). But she chose not to seek asylum there. Much like the hundreds of thousands of migrants swamping Europe, if you’re supposedly fleeing for your life but don’t stop until you reach the richest countries with the most generous entitlement programs, it strongly suggests that your primary motivations may have more to do with something other than personal safety.
It’s questionable whether many of these teenagers (84 percent of minors apprehended were teenagers) are actually fleeing for their lives or are seeking economic opportunity and to be with parents already here illegally. After all, it’s incredibly easy to learn how to claim asylum at the border, and our asylum system is notoriously lax and easy to bamboozle.
The Office of Refugee Resettlement, which is responsible for UAC, estimates that about 90 percent of UAC are eventually released into the custody of their parents or other relatives in the United States, even though the UAC are still in the country illegally. Of course, this strongly suggests that in many cases, illegal alien parents are responsible for illegally bringing their child into the United States. The report, however, blames the United States for the minors’ plight and never suggests parents might bear some responsibility. In FY 2014, 785 children aged five and younger were apprehended at the border without their parents. 6, 675 children aged 6-12 were apprehended without their parents. It’s extremely unlikely that a five-year old child, or even a nine-year old child, is going to decide to leave Honduras or El Salvador and travel to the United States on his own. It’s even less likely that such a child, particularly a five-year old, will successfully make his way across two or more countries to arrive at the United States border. And it’s unlikely that these children aren’t in the care of some adult in their home country, whether it’s a grandparent, an aunt or uncle, or an older sibling. Someone decided that these children should come to the United States, and both commonsense and previous cases suggest it was probably their parents.
In 2013, Judge Andrew Hanen lamented in U.S. v. Nava-Martinez:
This is the fourth case with the same factual situation this court has had in as many weeks. In all of the cases, human traffickers who smuggled minor children were apprehended short of delivering the children to their ultimate destination. In all cases, a parent, if not both parents, of the children was in this country illegally. That parent initiated the conspiracy to smuggle the minors into the country illegally. He or she also funded the conspiracy. In each case, the DHS completed the criminal conspiracy instead of enforcing the laws of the United States, by delivering the minors to the custody of the parent living illegally in the United States. (Emphasis added).
If illegal aliens were treated like American citizens, anyone who willingly surrendered their elementary school-aged child to the tender mercies of human smugglers would almost certainly have difficulty obtaining custody of their children for a very long time. But in this area, as in so many others, illegal aliens get away with so many things that American citizens would not.
The Commission’s solution to the detention center “crisis”? Don’t detain these illegal immigrants, of course. And, for good measure, give them lawyers at taxpayer expense. Let’s hope the Pope sees through this farce of a report.