What a border crisis looks like
News flash: There’s a crisis at the border.
This was discovered again over the past few days when immigration attorneys talked to reporters about appalling conditions at a Border Patrol facility detaining migrant minors in Clint, Texas.
According to the lawyers, many of the kids had to sleep on the concrete floor, failed to get proper adult supervision and didn’t routinely take showers or brush their teeth. The details were hard to read.
Assuming the account was accurate, one wonders how we could treat anyone this way, let alone children? But a lawyer who talked to The New Yorker mentioned a telling fact: The facility previously had a capacity of 104 and had never held children before. Yet it held roughly 350 children, apparently accommodated by placement of a new warehouse at the site.
All this is consistent with vast numbers of migrants, many of them families and children, flooding the border and overtaxing facilities never meant for these kinds of numbers or this demographic of migrant.
Indeed, the immigration lawyer mentioned to The New Yorker that the personnel at the Border Patrol facility were constantly receiving children and constantly transferring them over to a Health and Human Services site, and stipulated that the guards believed the children don’t belong there and should go someplace more appropriate. (Under the glare of publicity, they did.)
The broader problem is that HHS, which is supposed to get custody of migrant children from Border Patrol in short order, is itself overburdened and backed up.
Since it’s 2019, what should be properly attributed to dire circumstances and limited capacity is instead taken as evidence of President Donald Trump’s malice.
If what’s happening at the border is a product of Trump policy, it would have to involve an intricate and well-executed plan. The White House would have to convince the acting head of the Department of Homeland Security, Kevin McAleenan — who served as deputy commissioner of Customs and Border Protection under President Barack Obama — to send word down through the bureaucracy to treat children as callously as possible and not to leak word of this explosive guidance.
In the real world, a migrant influx will test even an administration more favorably inclined toward immigration. The reason that the left can’t keep their viral images straight — often misattributing to Trump photos of kids in steel-cage holding pens during the Obama years — is that this is a similar crisis to the one Obama faced in his second term, with similar challenges.
A viral video of a Justice Department lawyer arguing before a panel of judges last week that kids don’t need toothbrushes and soap to meet the standard for “safe and sanitary” detention under the so-called Flores settlement has caused outrage. But few have stopped to note that the underlying case had to do with a district court finding that the Obama administration in 2015 was in material breach of the Flores standard (or that the DOJ lawyer was offering a technical legal argument — not a defense of mistreating kids).
All that said, once these migrants are under our care, it is our responsibility to make sure they are treated as humanely as possible. The border needs more resources. The Trump administration has been asking Congress to pass a funding package, and it should do so forthwith. To address the root cause of the crisis, it should also change the bizarre asylum rules that have forced us to release family units from Central America into the country, creating an incentive for more to come.
As long as that’s the case, we aren’t going to be able to control the border or process people coming across it in an orderly fashion. What we’re seeing is what a border crisis looks like. If we don’t like it — and we shouldn’t — it’s time for Congress to act to begin to bring it to an end.
Editor’s note: Rich Lowry can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.