Politics, Security, World Affairs

Zero Tolerance at the Mexican Border

Under a new ‘Zero Tolerance’ US border policy, 1,995 children were separated from 1,940 adults between 19 April and 31 May in an attempt to deter further illegal crossings. The pitilessness of such a policy was bound to provoke outrage, and widespread expressions of revulsion have only intensified with the circulation of photographs of distraught children. News outlets, public figures, and people all over the world have rushed to condemned the inhumanity of the Trump administration. Is the outrage misplaced or is it justified?

By any reasonable account, it’s necessary to have and enforce immigration laws. The cultural, political, legal, and economic stability of nations depend on their ability to define and control their borders. Enacting policies that provide additional border control isn’t a problem in and of itself. Immigration policies are only a problem if and when they go too far. The new policy states that “if someone caught at the border illegally has a valid asylum claim, they could have a federal criminal conviction on their record, even if a judge later decides they have the right to stay in the country legally.” This is the policy issued by Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, as outlined by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Sessions directed United States Attorneys on the Southwest Border to “prosecute all amenable adults who illegally enter the country, including those accompanied by their children, for 8 U.S.C. § 1325(a), illegal entry. Children whose parents are referred for prosecution will be placed with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR).” Given the United States’ penchant for incarceration, and Trump’s desire to be a ‘law and order’ president, it’s unsurprising that incarceration is the default position for new US immigration policy.

Putting children into foster case or a kind of temporary housing system is standard practice when their parents commit crimes. This is true of the US and it’s true of other countries. In the US, 20,939 children are currently separated from their parents as a result of parental incarceration. That figure represents roughly 8 percent of all cases of child removal in 2016. Separation isn’t ideal, but it is better—or, at least, less bad—than sending children into prisons.

Those presently defending the new policy regard child separation to be the result of parental irresponsibility. If a parent takes the decision to cross into the US illegally, then that parent is morally responsible for what happens next, not the United States or its government agencies, and certainly not the Trump administration. If staying at home and travelling to the US both entail risk, then the parent has to make their choice and accept the consequences. But this is not the complete picture.

The UN’s Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees provides immigrants with the right to seek asylum and forbids states from deterring asylum seekers. Although states may apply necessary restrictions on movement, they may not impose penalties on account of illegal entry or presence, provided that migrants present themselves without delay and show good cause for entry. Good cause only needs to be argued for, it does not have to be legally demonstrated there and then. It should be enough to cite a plausible risk of persecution or an endangered life. The process of determining legitimate refugee status occurs after the individual in question has been provisionally accepted. Separating parents and children is therefore likely in violation of the UN Convention, unless the state has already demonstrated that the parents are there for the illegitimate reasons. If those crossing the border have voluntarily announced themselves and offered a credible reason for their flight, arresting them on the grounds of illegal entry is highly dubious. As Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, has since said, “The thought that any state would seek to deter parents by inflicting such abuse on children is unconscionable.”

On Monday 18 June, Chris Geidner, Legal Editor at Buzzfeed News, reported on a press briefing given by White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders and Homeland Security Secretary Kristjen Nielsen. Geidner reported that Nielsen had said people need to seek asylum at ports of entry. Her statement implies that the nature of the crossing is itself a sufficient criterion upon which to base a ruling on a crossing’s illegitimacy. If a migrant or asylum seeker uses an official crossing point, then he is legitimate. If he tries to ‘sneak in’ on a raft or using other surreptitious means, then he forfeits his right to asylum. Asylum seekers who go directly to official crossing points are not typically separated from their families. In an interview with Texas Monthly, Anne Chandler, executive director of the Houston office of the nonprofit Tahirih Justice Center, offered the following explanation for why immigrants are choosing to enter between official crossing points instead:

Very few people come to the bridge. The border patrol are saying the bridge is closed. When I was last out in McAllen, people were stacked on the bridge, sleeping there for three, four, ten nights. They’ve now cleared those individuals from sleeping on the bridge, but there are hundreds of accounts of asylum seekers, when they go to the bridge, who are told, “I’m sorry, we’re full today. We can’t process your case.” So the families go illegally on a raft—I don’t want to say illegally; they cross without a visa on a raft. Many of them then look for Border Patrol to turn themselves in, because they know they’re going to ask for asylum.

Two things are worth noting here. First, it’s unreasonable to require a person to use an official crossing point if that crossing point is closed. Second, most migrants turn themselves in—the days of undetected crossings ended years ago. Surely, turning yourself in when you’ve entered at an unofficial crossing point falls into the category of “presenting to authorities without delay,” as required by Article 31. In an imperfect situation, where life is more difficult than it otherwise needs to be, innocent people, who are likely to be unfamiliar with US and international law, may be doing their best to act in good faith. So, the nature of the crossing is not a sufficient criterion for assessing its legitimacy.

Despite scathing criticism, Sessions continues to defend his ‘Zero Tolerance’ policy, saying that the policy it isn’t about “being mean” to children but about “discouraging people from making children endure that treacherous journey… Everything the ‘open borders lobby’ is doing is encouraging that and endangering these children.” I will not speculate about what is or isn’t in the heart of Jeff Sessions. But if, as he claims, the welfare of immigrant children is of paramount importance then he ought to concede that his policy is a disaster.

By taking a suspect or child into custody, the state assumes a duty of care. If a person is no longer free to act in accordance with their conception of their own best interests, the state must make a good faith attempt to do so (subject to resource constraints). In this sense, the state must be beneficent and non-maleficent; the state must do well by the people for whom it is charged to care and must avoid doing harm. These are moral principles protected by law. I’d be willing to make a further ethical claim: If the state cannot fulfil this duty of care due to resource constraints, then the state ought not to take charge of the person at all, unless doing so is essential to the safety of its citizens.

Reports about the various ways in which state institutions are failing immigrants have come thick and fast. One undocumented migrant from Honduras allegedly had her child taken while she was breastfeeding. Another report claims that the Department of Health and Human Services is considering housing separated children in tent cities on nearby army bases. Reuters reports that asylum claims made by those escaping gang violence and severe domestic abuse may not be recognised anymore, owing to Sessions’s new policy.

In the light of such reports, Sessions’s pious claim that he is protecting children sounds like a cynical means of excusing an otherwise inexcusable attempt to reduce the burden on immigration courts. Reuters reports that some 711,000 cases are currently waiting to be heard, being heard, or being appealed. No doubt, splitting families up, trying children en masse at immigration courts, and tightening up regulations helps relieve some of the strain. If the only barrier to increasing output is proper process, adding short-cuts is sure to help, or at least move the problem further down the line.

But when the problem has been moved all the way to the frontlines, chaos has ensued. In her interview with Texas Monthly, Anne Chandler says:

There is no one process. Judging from the mothers and fathers I’ve spoken to and those my staff has spoken to, there are several different processes. Sometimes they will tell the parent, “We’re taking your child away.” And when the parent asks, “When will we get them back?” they say, “We can’t tell you that.” Sometimes the officers will say, “because you’re going to be prosecuted” or “because you’re not welcome in this country,” or “because we’re separating them,” without giving them a clear justification. In other cases, we see no communication that the parent knows that their child is to be taken away. Instead, the officers say, “I’m going to take your child to get bathed.” That’s one we see again and again. “Your child needs to come with me for a bath.” The child goes off, and in a half an hour, twenty minutes, the parent inquires, “Where is my five-year-old?” “Where’s my seven-year-old?” “This is a long bath.” And they say, “You won’t be seeing your child again.” … In another case, the father said, “Can I comfort my child? Can I hold him for a few minutes?” The officer said, “You must let them go, and if you don’t let them go, I will write you up for an altercation, which will mean that you are the one that had the additional charges charged against you.”

When appropriate processes and procedures lapse, they leave the vulnerable even more exposed. Threatening parents who wish to console their children is obviously unacceptable, or at least it ought to be. Lying to vulnerable people, as an authority figure charged with meting out some degree of justice, is shameful.

Now that parents are facing questionable charges of criminality, their children are considered ‘unaccompanied.’ But those children were not unaccompanied when they arrived, they were taken from the custody of their parents by US officials. In the name of protecting children, the US is now pulling families apart, many of whom claim to be escaping domestic violence, gang warfare, civil conflict, and immense suffering.

Worst of all, the new Zero Tolerance policy has backed key decision-makers into a corner. White House Press Secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and Speaker, Paul D. Ryan, have both invoked the Flores Settlement as justification for the separation policy. But the Flores Settlement requires that officials place minors in the “least restrictive setting appropriate.” Flores stipulates three options:

  1. Releasing families together.
  2. Passing a law to allow for family detention.
  3. Breaking up families.

Because domestic and gang violence are no longer to be considered valid grounds for asylum, releasing families together is an easier task. When dealing with migrants in other circumstances, however, choosing between options two and three is difficult. It requires the state and the public to determine whether they prefer separating children from their families, potentially for months on end, or keeping the family together in a criminal detention centre for as long as it takes the parents to be processed and receive their day in court. Bearing in mind the number of cases being processed currently, that could take the better part of a year, at least. It seems that the only decent option is the one that the US refuses to allow—monitoring families in a setting outside of detention facilities.


Kirio Birks is a postgraduate student with B.A. in Philosophy and is studying for a Master of Health Sciences endorsed in Bioethics. You can follow him on Twitter @kiriobirks


  1. J Loucks says

    Catch and Release is the preferred solution of the Open Borders (La Raza) , but is no longer tenable(Option #1) but that is a failed response, and ignores the impunity with with ‘undocumented (more correctly ILLEGAL) immigrants ‘play the system’
    Option #2 is acceptable as long as it is adequately resourced, and that cases are adjudicated promptly and that applicants that are DENIED asylum are permanently EJECTED and prevented from attempting to game the system (with penalties for criminal trespass if asylum is denied)- Finger Printed /BioMetric tracking of both granted AND denied asylum.
    Option #3 is a poor solution, but is still better than Option #1- the simple answer is? don’t want to be separated from your child? Stay in Mexico and follow the rules. LIKE EVERY OTHER LEGAL IMMIGRANT DOES

    • Chris says

      Families that cross the border for the purpose of seeking asylum can’t “Stay in Mexico and follow the rules” because that would result in their torture or death. Keep in mind that these specific families aren’t coming over to enjoy our green grass. These families SEEK ASYLUM because they are running, usually for their lives, from the threat of death. Furthermore, once you ask yourself whether you would rather die, along with your family, or live at the cost of being separated from your children the argument that this policy is an immigration deterrent falls apart.

      • doug deeper says

        Chris, you and the author assume you know the circumstances causing illegal immigrants to cross the Mexican border. If I read you both accurately, you assume they come to avoid “torture or death” in their country of origin and every country they pass through. You also assume they are not convicted criminals and most can prove they will meet our asylum requirements. I see the author has studied philosophy, and now health sciences endorsed in bioethics. I do not know your background.
        But I believe your views are tantamount to an open border policy.

        When I hear the border agents tell their experiences with these illegal immigrants they tell a very different story. Many crossers game the system by taking their children, or children who are not theirs, on a very treacherous journey, and cross into the US with asylum stories that prove false. Many of these adults are selfishly endangering these children. Some are outright criminals who even abandon the children once they are free in the US. Most never show up for court dates when we have employed catch and release.
        I am sure the crossers are a very mixed bag.
        However, I cannot accept the very slanted story you and the author tell when you appear to have virtually no direct experience on the ground.
        I spent fifteen years working at the TJ/SD border running a company with facilities on both sides. My experience tells me that people who are not intimately involved with the border simply are telling stories that may sound noble but usually have no relationship to the reality on the ground. And often the perpetuation of these stories causes real additional dangers.
        I choose to believe the border agents rather than the armchair philosophers.

    • Zeke says

      Exactly. It’s ridiculous that people are shifting the blame to America. Parents of these children are 100% responsible and deserve 100% of any “blame”.

  2. This whole thing is a farce no other first world country in the world has to deal with. We have a perverse system that encourages people to take there kids and try to come into this country illegally or take other people’s kids and try to come into this country illegally. Both political parties are to blame for decades the GOP tacitly encouraged illegal immigration as a sop to business. Its ridiculous that we keep having this debate whether a country has the right to decide who can come here to live or not. This is a 75%+ plus issue when you poll the American people and ask them if they want the border secure. Everyone might not non criminal illegals deported that have lived here for years peaceable but almost everyone wants the damn border secured I don’t care if its a wall or e-verify but something has to happen.

    • John says

      For context, this exact problem exists in the EU.

      People here are complaining because after much deliberation by human rights courts, we figured the most humane solution was to detain people with their children. The reasoning being that separating families is worse than detaining whole families, though we have to enforce borders.

      I would really like there to be no incovenient to enforcing borders. But not doing so is much, much worse.

      In this present instance I think the EU interpretation is the most sane one, but to tax this complex problem as mere gratuitous cruelty like some do is unreasonable.

      • Inanna says

        Yes, the problem exists in the EU, and so many people are coming that there is not adequate housing for all of them, so people are being kept, unvetted and waiting processing, in group camps, where women and children fear going to the bathroom at night and sexual assault and child prostitution are rife, in chaotic centers where the truly vulnerable (women, children, gays, Christians, Kurds, ect) are abused with impunity and rioting inmates make the news daily.

  3. I understand that feelings of compassion inhibit consideration of consequences, especially consequences that are months or years away. But any sane consideration of these issues considers “What are the incentives my proposal creates?” Is the incentive for illegal immigrants to bring minor children on a dangerous journey? Then that’s a horrible policy.

    • Tom Darlington says

      If you were a refugee fleeing violence as a refugee would you not take your children with you?

      The case that the article is making is that a lot of the prosecutions we’re pursuing against these accused illegal immigrants are spurious and that the separation of parents are their children is immoral. Do you disagree?

      Do you not also agree that we should accept refugee’s in this country?

      • Those people are not refugees. They are just leaving crappy places. There’s nothing happening in, say, Honduras that wasn’t happening there a few years back. If being in a disfunctional country entitles people to asylum, then everyone there should be allowed to move to the US, Japan and the EU. At some point in the future, voters will ask what the definition of refugee or asylum seeker is, and will hold that definition to a reasonable standard.

        • Tom Darlington says

          How about being targeted by gangs and drug cartels in those dysfunctional countries?

          They’ve taken great risk in coming to the US and when they arrive many surrender immediately to immigration authorities. So how can you be so sure they aren’t refugees?

          • Owen says

            Can the citizens of Detroit seek asylum in Canada?

      • gregor says

        Yes, I disagree. The American public never asked for this immigrant flood and don’t want it to continue. Yet the government, corporate interests, and mass media conspire to make sure it continues. That betrayal is immoral in the extreme.

        The next time the media manipulates you emotionally into calling for national ruin, try to channel some of that concern toward your own children and the world they will have to live in.

      • Rick says

        The is no justification for refugee status in Mexico and the UN guidelines are such that you are supposed to stop in the first country you aren’t being persecuted in. If you have skipped the perfectly adequate, but less rich Mexico in favor of the US, you are an economic migrant at that point. There is nothing spurious about charging illegal immigrants with illegally crossing.

        • Tom Darlington says

          I refer you back to the article above: the author makes a good argument that it’s not automatic that just because they did not enter the US through official crossings that they’re entering the country illegally. That aside, at best the case against them rises to the level of a misdemeanor. Is it worth the time of the already strained Federal Court systems to focuses on this level of offense?

          I am also curious as to what your definition of perfectly adequate is. Mexico’s troubles with organized crime, and in particular police collusion with organized crime is well known. How can you be so confident in that assertion that there is no justification for refugee status there?

          What makes you assume that Mexico isn’t taking any refugees?

          • Inanna says

            Mexico is a huge country, and there is no reason at all why people can’t move from one part to another if they are targetted by drug gangs. We have one of two scenarios: either the cartels target everyone and the country is a failed state at war (in which case all of Mexico should be welcome to claim asylum) or there is only violence in some parts of Mexico, in which case the people have the option of moving to less violent places within Mexico.

            I have lived in Mexico for five years, and there are about a million US citizens living there. All of the Mexican immigrants and first gen Mexicans I know go back to visit family. Millions of Americans each year go to Mexico as tourists.

            Asylum is an overwrought claim with a very serious political agenda behind it. Lopez Obrador is stating it very clearly when he says that he believes that Mexicans “have a human right to move to the United States” and the border itself is immoral.

            Child trafficking in Mexico is a serious problem, so it can’t be assumed that children are coming with their parents. Separating them to determine that is a sound policy.

        • Larry D. says

          Thanks for this Rick. I just had a conversation while in Mexico last week with an associate their about why they are not taking in any immigrants from Guatemala and other places.

          Mexico doesn’t want them.

  4. LAW says

    It’s nice to read an analysis that doesn’t start and end with “OMG CHILDREN IN CAGES”, which is the “analysis” pretty much everywhere else.

    Here is my issue with the asylum argument.

    In 2016, there were 565,000 people caught illegally crossing the southern border of the US.


    And by some reasonable estimates, only about 54% are actually caught


    So math would dictate that about 1,005,000 people crossed the southern border illegally in 2016.

    Now, if you look at asylum cases granted, there were about 6,722 cases of asylum granted to people from Central/South America in 2015:

    http://www.ncsl.org/research/immigration/snapshot-of-u-s-immigration-2017.aspx (number is in the linked spreadsheet at the bottom)

    So let’s say 50% of these asylum cases are people crossing the southern border outside of a checkpoint (probably a generous assumption). You’re talking about ~3,300 or so valid asylum seekers of those 1,005,000 people crossing. Or, to put it differently, 99.7% of people crossing are not coming with valid asylum cases. They’re simply crossing illegally.

    The focus on people seeking asylum is a focus on a very rare case – the overwhelming majority of people crossing are a) openly breaking US immigration law, or b) using asylum claims that will be denied as a shield against being subjected to US immigration law.

    So with that being said…how do we handle the 99.7%? Even if we handled perfectly the few valid asylum seekers who are being unfairly separated from their children, all of the issues with “children in cages” would persist for the vast majority of cases.

    IMHO, this is really an issue with “ripping the band-aid off” in terms of immigration law. The US has for so long handled enforcement of immigration law in such a lax manner that actually upholding the law creates an eye-popping volume of detained would-be illegal immigrants, and with that an eye-popping volume of children waiting for their detained parents to have their cases processed. It seems the only solution proposed here by the left is to simply return to the status quo of turning a blind eye to illegal crossings. I don’t find that acceptable at all.

    And it’s not because I’m anti-immigration. I would much prefer to see a system where we actually issue proper work visas for the hundreds of thousands of migrants who come into the country to perform work that Americans really do depend on. And the immigrants on visa exhibit good behavior, we give them a proper way to become US citizens.

    The current system of creating an underclass of undocumented immigrants who exist in citizenship limbo is unfair to everyone involved. With any luck, Trump’s draconian policy will help spur movement in updating our immigration law to make some sense, so that when it is actually applied people are not appalled at the result.

    • Saheel says

      This is very sound analysis of the statistical complexity of the problem. I agree that the broken laws need to be fixed so that valid asylum claimants are taken care of promptly, without allowing misuse by the vast majority.

    • Heartily agreed. Caterwauling about “won’t somebody please think of the children” is not a sensible solution to the problem. Allowing people to break the law with impunity is not a sensible solution to the problem. The only sensible solution is a structural solution, such as the one you’ve proposed. I have very little hope, however, that we can get there.

    • Zeke says

      Thanks for this thorough analysis. I’ve been looking for actual asylum seeking data. Even Vox agreed that the cases of asylum seekers being detained even after legally entering was rare and not systemic.

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  6. dirk says

    In Europe there is no wall between rich and poor, but a sea, the Mediterranean. This week, a ship with about 600 refugees was refused in Italian harbours (where so many of them landed the last years, under loud protests due to the funny Dublin accord) but in the end was allowed to board in a Spanish harbour. Oh, oh, oh what’s happening in this crazy world!

    • Rick says

      Italy is asserting it’s sovereignty over their shores because the ship should have went to Tunisia if it was actually following the appropriate UN guidelines which state rescues should be taken to the nearest safe point. The nearest safe port is Tunisia. The next nearest is Malta. Neither have ever taken “rescued” people. Rescued is in quotes because the NGOs coordinate with the human traffickers to facilitate pick ups.

  7. Jeff York says

    If the “asylum seekers” >>>wink-wink<<< will apply for asylum at a U.S. embassy/consulate in their country or at a recognized port-of-entry they won't face family separation.

    I served in seven third-world dystopias, four of them Islamic visions of what can only be described as Hell on Earth, I kid you not. The number of people in the world who might plausibly claim to need asylum might number half a billion. According to one population-growth projection the population of Africa is projected to increase from 1.3-billion today to 4-billion by 2100. If Europe and America were to each take 5%, 200-milion each, they would quite literally be destroyed, no exaggeration, and the remaining 3.6-million people in Africa wouldn't even notice they were missing. "Just say no."

    The Japanese, in particular, understand something about homogeneity & social trust/cohesion and demographics & destiny that the West collectively does not.

    Victims of illegal aliens: http://www.ojjpac.org/memorial.asp

    • dirk says

      Take care Jeff, the West is not a bloc, Hungary doesn’t want to take any more refugees, against the will of Brussels. Merkel said ” Wir schaffen das”, because she remembers the history of East Germany (communal guilt is an important factor, always), but her overly optimistic words caused a storm of critique.

    • Jack B. Nimble says

      @Jeff York

      “….The Japanese, in particular, understand something about homogeneity & social trust/cohesion and demographics & destiny that the West collectively does not……”

      Uhhh, you need to keep up with current events: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-japan-immigration/demand-for-foreign-workers-may-soften-japans-immigration-rules-idUSKBN1JB05H

      Countries with low birth rates absolutely NEED immigrants to take the jobs that open up as the oldsters retire or die off. This is not a call for ‘open borders;’ instead, we need to understand that the US economy can easily accommodate current rates of immigration and MORE. Immigrants create economic activity that results in job growth, not job loss.

      The current US panic over loss of national identity and imagined threats from immigrants is no different from the anti-Japanese panic during WWII, the anti-German panic in WWI, the anti-Chinese and anti-Irish panics of the 1800s, etc.

        • Having been to Japan on/off over the past 10 years I can say with certainty that Japan is very Muslim friendly. There are mosques, prayer rooms at public spaces and plenty of halal food offerings in major cities such as Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe and Hiroshima. the small Muslim population comes from diverse ethnic groups such as Turkish, Kazakh, Pakistani, Indonesian etc.
          Popular holiday destinations such as cities I mentioned above have local Japanese delicacies that may contain non-halal ingredients such as pork. In my travels, many of these restaurants will disclose pork and other ingredients to accommodate guests with special dietary restrictions (vegan, gluten-free, kosher, halal). This is just the general hospitality of the Japanese (even though they are insular and homogenous, they are famous for their above-and-beyond hospitality). Japanese service industry are exceptionally trained to anticipate the needs of their guests. In general, not as much Islamophobia in Japan (and the East) compared to western countries.

          In fact, rising Islamophobia in the west has driven tourism businesses to East Asia. Specifically China, Hong Kong, South Korea and Japan, have become popular destination for Middle Eastern tourists. Many cities in Asia are safer and more accommodating to their needs while serving up the western-style capitalism, but with a bit more modesty and traditional culture.

          Japan also has maintained good relations with a number of Muslim countries both in the Middle East and Eastern regions. Bilateral relations include fostering language exchange, and work exchange programs, and visa-free travel have been conferred to a number of Muslim countries in the recent past.

          China has also followed suit to encourage cultural and work exchange between numerous Middle Eastern and African countries, in the name of building their Belt and Road Initiative. As Chinese economy grows (faster than MENA), they are receiving more labor influx from outside.

          While the west is busy putting up walls and barriers, China will continue to build its image and relations with the rest of the world and become the next economic superpower.

          • “In general, not as much Islamophobia in Japan (and the East) compared to western countries…”

            That could be because Islam is so under the radar and irrelevant (because there are so incredibly few; ~185,000 Muslims in a country of over 120 million) that it’s a non-issue. Hence you won’t see almost no talking heads bloviating about Islam and Muslims on the nightly news. I can see how that manifests in a feeling of “not as much Islamophobia.”

            Also can’t really speak to your anecdotes. You sound kind of like an upscale business traveler. So that’s one reason all is so cordial.

            Two years ago the Japanese Supreme Court gave the thumbs up to surveillance of the country’s tiny Muslim population, with no drawn out deliberative process over the act to speak of: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/06/top-court-green-lights-surveillance-japan-muslims-160629040956466.html

            “Japan also has maintained good relations with a number of Muslim countries both in the Middle East and Eastern regions.”

            Definitely true.

          • dirk says

            I wonder what Benita thinks of Khadija’s attack. Of course, China has (ever since, so, not like Europe and the US) many muslims in its territory, and Japan”s Buddhism/Shintoism is also somewhat closer to Islam than to Western thought. How is all this going to influence the new world order? One thing is sure. It will not be in the West’s interest.

          • Jeff York says

            Khadijah, there is no such thing as islamophobia. A phobia is an irrational fear. ~4400 Americans killed, wounded and maimed (in America and not counting FGM) since the first attack on the WTC in ’93 suggests that fear of Islam is entirely rational. Most Buddhists & Hindus aren’t white but you don’t see Buddhist/Hindu-phobia. Why do you think that is? As stated above, I served in four Islamic visions of what can only be described as Hell on Earth and I know the answer.

          • Jeff York says

            P.S. Sometime in the last year or so I saw some news-blurb about Japan banning the construction/creation of any new mosques. Wise.

      • OtherWay says

        What we need is up for honest debate. (I happen to disagree with you).
        What is not up for debate is that people coming to this country should get in line properly, obey the rules, and be thrown of the country when they cheat and cut the line on the honest immigrants that actually deserve to be here.
        When you stop just trying to import voters – and start behaving honestly – your opinion about we might ‘need’ might be listened to.

        • Jack B. Nimble says


          I assume this comment is addressed to me.

          I deliberately left out of my comment two items: [1] the morality of separating parents and children at the border and [2] what should be done with undocumented/illegal immigration. In fact, I didn’t mention asylum or amnesty at all. Yet you accuse ME of dishonesty?

          I happen to think that it is immoral to take away the children of migrant parents who are guilty of, at most, a misdemeanor. But the US has certainly done the same and worse in the past, including the WWII internment of some Japanese-American citizens. And the American criminal justice system is nothing to take pride in.

          I also think that immigration laws need to be enforced MORE rigorously than they are now, but this would require much more govt. funding, at a time that the GOP is trying to cut the non-military budget. And using the military or Nat. Guard at the border is a non-starter.

          Undocumented workers and lax enforcement are a bonanza for unscrupulous employers AND for the human traffickers and smugglers who profit from the current ‘system.’ Those are the people who should be locked up.

          Immigration [legal or otherwise] does have macro-economic benefits [and few costs] for countries like the US and Japan with slumping birth rates. The micro-economic effects include both COSTS and BENEFITS, particularly with undocumented immigrants:

          WINNERS – [1] employers who need to fill jobs like farm, construction or slaughterhouse work, but don’t want to pay prevailing wages, [2] employers who want to bust or prevent unionization, and [3] immigrants willing to work under substandard conditions and substandard wages.

          LOSERS – [1] non-immigrants who are themselves mostly 2nd or 3rd generation offspring of immigrants and who still work in menial jobs, [2] undocumented immigrants who are vulnerable to exploitation [including wage theft] because of their status, [3] local school districts and public hospitals that are required to serve all the public, regardless of legal status, and a few others.

      • Imagined threats? First, it is clearly the fact that there is some level of immigration which will destroy a native culture. If you live in a republic of 300 million where people believe in religious freedom, equality of the sexes, antiracism, and integrity in public officials, what happens when you bring 600 million more people who don’t (like most of the non-Western world) believe in anything of those things, and their children all have the right to vote? You really think we will be able to socialize all of those kids into our culture before they reach 18?

        We aren’t seeing immigration levels of 200%, but there are around 50 million foreign-born people living in the US today, that’s nearly 1/6 of the population. It is not mere “panic” to think that this level of immigration is a threat to our culture. Reasonable people can have reasonable discussions about it, but not if one side insists on taking a condescending and belittling approach to any discussion by using terms like “panic” and “imagined threats” to refer to the other side. That sort of approach means that you want to avoid an actual discussion. And that preference suggests that you don’t think you would win such a discussion.

        • Jack B. Nimble says

          @David Gudeman — 200% immigration? Are you always this prone to exaggeration?

          Look, the actual proportion of foreign-born in the US is currently between 1/7 and 1/8. The proportion of foreign born in the labor force is lower, reflecting the fact that many of the foreign born are under 18.

          Source: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/05/03/key-findings-about-u-s-immigrants/

          Here are a few facts to ponder:

          1…..The proportion of foreign born in the US was above 1/8 for the entire period of 1855-1925, when the racist and exclusionary Immigration Act of 1924 took effect. This was an eventful period in American history, but was NOT characterized by a loss of national identity. This is also a period when the US experienced rapid economic expansion.

          2…..The proportion of foreign born at any time includes persons who have been in the US since early childhood and thus have learned American values and language. The proportion of foreign born is also a LAGGING indicator of the effect of immigration, since a foreign born person retains that status for their entire life, regardless of how acculturated they have become.

          3…..Legal immigration RATE/YEAR to the US is nowhere near historic highs, allowing for the huge increase in the US population over the past century. Source: https://www.migrationpolicy.org/programs/data-hub/charts/Annual-Number-of-US-Legal-Permanent-Residents

          4……I was using the ‘imagined threats’ phrase to refer to the false idea that immigrants are more prone to criminal acts than non-immigrants. Google ‘studies-say-illegal-immigration-does-not-increase-violent-crime’ for details.

          Of course, illegal immigration IS a crime by definition, but it is a low-level economic crime, like selling un-taxed cigarettes or liquor, that is not a threat to public safety.

          • “200% immigration? Are you always this prone to exaggeration?”

            Next time, maybe read the whole comment before you respond to it.

            As to the rest, I’m not going to pretend this is a serious discussion when you started out by assuming the other side is irrational and didn’t even read my comment before replying to it. Instead, I’ll just note that all of your facts are distortions invented by the anti-borders activists.

          • Jack B. Nimble says

            @David Gudeman

            “……I’ll just note that all of your facts are distortions invented by the anti-borders activists……”

            Isn’t that comment……… you know…… just another exaggeration? I’m trying to have a serious discussion with links and all, but it is difficult when others are so defensive and easily offended. I also think that anti-immigration types tend to be mis-informed and prone to all-or-nothing thinking. If that is an accusation of irrationality, then so be it.

            I did read your comment in its entirety, and explained your misunderstanding of my phrase ‘imagined threats.’ I’m also wondering if you think that Pew Research is part of some anti-border conspiracy. If ‘my’ facts are wrong, why don’t you respond with links of your own?

            Look, using ‘foreign-born’ as a proxy measure of lack of acculturation has serious problems when applied to the US. I’ve already pointed out that it is a lagging indicator–someone who enters the US as a 1 year old and lives to age 91 will be included in the foreign-born tally for 90 years, until they die. Also, so-called ‘anchor babies’ can be born in the US to foreign parents [like graduate students from China] and then return to their parents’ country at a very early age. Yet if they were to claim US birthright citizenship at, say, age 18, they would be counted among the ‘native-born’ despite their lack of acculturation.

      • Jeff York says

        JBN, “may” soften immigration rules. Even if that happens it won’t be anything comparable to what the U.S. and Europe are experiencing. Probably more comparable to Saudi Arabia and its guest-workers. Any new immigrants to Japan will be on a short leash. I read some years ago that their Korean minority has been there for six and seven generations and still aren’t citizens to include they can’t vote. Don’t know if that’s still true.

        Heterogeneous societies tend to be chaotic, e.g. the Balkans at different times in history, Rwanda in ’94, Darfur in the 2000s,much of the Middle East and increasingly parts of Europe.

      • Inanna says

        Actually, there is a reason for this panic that is quite real and substantial. I used to be on the left and an active part of Democratic voting campaigns. Their stated long term political strategy was to import voters from countries who vote more socialist and to lock up the political system for the left indefinitely.

        When you import voters, which is unethical on the face of it, you run the risk of them voting in the kind of government they voted in their country before.

        Concern for our institutions, which, however durable they have been are not unbreakable, is not “panic of identity”.

  8. Steve says

    The sui generis US border situation is far more complex morally and logistically than we generally acknowledge. Yes, the US has the right to control borders. However much of the oppression and poverty in the lands to the south of the US are directly or indirectly caused by America’s gargantuan insatiable long-term craving for narcotics. America is in practical terms deeply complicit in the pathologies of the South. Simply walling people off isn’t going to work. “You broke it, you bought it”, at least to some extent.

    • OtherWay says

      Nothing says leftist like a total lack of personal responsibility. Now Mexico is all my fault too.

      • Cristian says

        Kind of is, Yeah, personal responsibility means accepting your own mistakes does it not? because i would argue nothing say’s victim hood culture more than avoiding once own responsibilities. So let’s talk responsibilities, the biggest drug market in the world is your’s, and so is the biggest weapon market; So cartels have easy access to both money and weapons, Mexico fighting a war in America’s name, with America’s drug market money and weapons in one side, and Mexicans tax money, America’s Tax money(Aid, like Merida initiative), and America made weapons on the other.

        Now im not saying Mexico has no responsibility, corruption is rampant in most of it’s government institutions, politicians are as hated as cartels, in some areas people hate politician more than cartel’s sense local cartels give them money, and improve the infrastructure, then there is the cartels getting their hands on Local and Federal authorities pocket, to the point where most of Mexicans distrust the police, and their most trusted institutions are the Army and their Marines. Like i said it’s all a big pile of corruption, from the top to the bottom, but they been improving, to the point where net migration from Mexico is in negative numbers, going by Pew Research (your president Quotes Pew Research btw).

        And sense Mexico has been getting better, and sense they are fighting the drug war, and destroying cartels one after the other (another one always pops out), the market flow for drugs has moved Downstream, operations in Central American countries, which were much less prepared for the type of criminality that so much money (U.S. drug Market) entices, well it causes their honest general population to suffer, some of them have no choice but to run, and if you were in their place im sure you would move to the most likely place for you to have a good life, as they are, im not saying take them all, but assume responsibility for some of your own would you? Check case by case, deport the “economic migrants” and keep those that might be suffering the consequence’s of America’s war on drugs, because it’s not fought in America, even though most of the money and weapons for it come from there.

        Btw, speaking of the Merida initiative another thing Mexico is doing for the U.S. is deporting Central Americans on their way to the U.S., in bigger numbers than Americans do, that’s been happening sense 2014, even media that are not “leftist” like Breitbart, reported on that.

        So you know, i think everyone should take responsibility for their own actions, and if Nationalism is going to be promoted, then individuals should feel at least a small inkling of responsibility over their own Nation’s faults, also i think it’s important to be responsible enough to research before you comment online, nothing say’s uniformed “leftist, rightist” more than not doing so.

        Good day to you.

  9. You need to stop writing articles like this, given that they trigger the crypto-fascists who form Quillette’s fansbase.

    • gda says

      Why then do you, a hyperbolic brain-dead progressive, spewing your cauldron of bile, even dare to darken these hallowed walls if you believe Quillette to be infested with nothing but crypto-fascists?

    • So writing non-fascist articles bring out the fascists. Sounds hopeless. Because you know what writing fascist articles would do.

    • LAW says

      Ooooh “crypto-fascist”. That sounds scary!

      Have anything intelligent to say besides shitposting with meaningless insults?

  10. Dan says

    Most questions are complex, but sometimes the answers are simple. At some point there has to be a moral absolute. Some things are right and wrong, beyond the efficacy of any policy. Separating young children and toddlers from their parents and holding them in cages is wrong. This isn’t a question of immigration policy or border control. This is a question of basic human decency.

    • Sean Wood says

      Separating young children and toddlers from their parents and holding them in cages is wrong.

      According to the Dept. of Homeland Security, in Fiscal Year 2017, 90 percent of the children were released to a sponsor who was either a parent or close relative. Is this barbarous? This happens all the time in the case of people who are put in jail. Should we not put anybody with children in jail? Illegal immigrants are committing a crime under 8 U.S. Code § 1325. Is the Attorney General justified in failing to enforce federal laws he disagrees with?

      Federal law currently forbids detaining children with parents. What is your solution? Should all illegal immigrants be made to promise to appear at their immigration hearings and released into the country?

    • Sevan Claig says

      Nobody is putting children in cages.
      Good Lord, the propaganda parroting people particpate in these days…
      The viral photos of children crying in cages from pet smart are from staged exaggerations by and for protesters against the US border enforcement.
      Stop it. Just stop it.

    • ETG says

      The separation of children from parents is also wildly disproportionate in response to what we’re trying to prevent. We’re not talking about a dilemma in which you might have to kill a child to stop a terrorist from killing 1,000 people. Even if we stipulate that illegal immigration has a negative net impact on the US economy, the harm of that does not justify taking kids from parents.

      The “break the law, pay the price” argument is flawed – at least by itself – because it makes no room for judging proportionality. It could be used to justify cutting the hands off of thieves. The question is whether the punishment is appropriate given the infraction. And the extreme harm of breaking up families is not justified by trying to protect ourselves from what is generally* an economic problem (taxes spent/labor market distortions) at worst.

      *I grant that the occasional member of these immigrants will commit a violent crime, but separating young children from their parents is something very close to violence – and we’re doing it as a policy.

      • Sean Wood says

        separating young children from their parents is something very close to violence – and we’re doing it as a policy.

        It’s also something that we do every day all over the country when a parent has to be detained by the government. Are you in favor of giving a get-out-of-jail-free card to every violator who has a child?

        • ETG says

          @Sean Wood

          It’s not an apples-to-apples comparison. People detained in the US generally have family nearby who can take care of their kids (though admittedly not always), so the harm is greater here on average. People charged with misdemeanors* are also usually granted bail and often (though again not always) sanctioned without ever being imprisoned, so the punishment is greater here. DUIs are a good example. Driving under the influence is a threat to the safety of others (29 deaths per day in the US in 2016). But most people awaiting trial on a DUI charge are not doing so in jail. And many (most?) first-time DUI offenders don’t go to prison.

          *A first-time illegal entry by an alien to the US is a misdemeanor, and it’s usually dealt with in a civil proceeding rather than a criminal one.

          • Sean Wood says


            Are you in favor of releasing all illegal immigrants into the country on their on their own recognizance and trusting that they will appear at their immigration hearings and then, if ordered, leave voluntarily? People enter illegally because they know that legal entry is not available to them. Why on earth would a person willing to enter illegally not be willing to skip his hearings and disappear into the country?

            If you are not willing to release them all into the country then they need to be detained during the immigration process. The law currently says that minors who have not committed a crime cannot be detained. What should be done with them?

          • ETG says

            @ Sean Wood

            For now, I would release most of them. That’s what we were doing very recently, and it was hardly a disaster. As the piece above says, at least some people enter illegally not because entering legally is an impossibility under the law but because it’s a practical impossibility. And as the piece and its link to a Reuters report say, a great many people turn themselves in immediately upon entry. It seems safe to assume that those people also attend their hearings.*

            The notion that people who enter illegally will then necessarily keep violating the law is wrong. Most are not incorrigible criminals but rather people who engage in a one-time breach of the law to put themselves into what they hope will be a markedly better life. Theirs is a one-off leap of faith and illegality, not a crime spree.

            The only people I would not release right now – at least off the top of my head – would be adults whom had committed violent crimes in the past or who had gang ties. The harm of releasing everyone else simply doesn’t justify what we’re doing. That said, I hope both parties agree to what Ted Cruz proposed if the DOJ does not change course very soon. Then at least families would not be separated while their ultimate immigration fate is decided.

            *It’s also worth noting that, as of 2015, the US was losing more Mexican migrants (who don’t account for all immigrants across the US-Mexico border, I grant) than it was gaining. Apparently some immigrants who enter illegally also later self-deport, so to speak.

          • Sean Wood says

            @ ETG

            Let’s see what’s in Trump’s new Executive Order. He says that it will allow migrant families to be detained together. It’s probably a DACA-like exercise of legislative powers. Maybe he figures that this will at least get him through the midterms.

    • Larry D. says

      Hi Dan,

      despite the heated discussions and the harsh words back and forth – I believe that all commentators on this board would agree with you on parents being separated form the children and thrown in cages is wrong.

      I sense that your compassion has been stirred. Your moral compass in protecting children is the best moral compass to have. I think protection of innocent and helpless humans should be our moral center

      If you will allow me to elaborate and give me the benefit of the doubt – that I am coming from a truthful place.

      I think in this specific situation there are some gray areas. For many years there has been a very serious uptick in human trafficking from the border. While, I believe that most of these kids are with their actual parents and relatives, there is a good percentage that are not. Because we had basically an open doors policy for families, traffickers have been using this loophole.

      If we let people come in without documents and proof of any kind we endanger the most vulnerable. Part of the separation is verification. While babies should not be torn from mothers while nursing (that’s cruel), unverified children should and need to be separated from adults until they can be proven that they are family and that nothing nefarious is being done with the children.

      My father sought asylum in the country and my immediate family are all immigrants. I agree with the premiss that all children need to be protected. However, there are are so many gray areas when it comes to the border.

      I hope you consider this opinion.

  11. Sean Wood says

    Trump’s draconian policy

    How is Trump’s policy draconian? The only alternative currently available is to say that illegal immigrants will be detained pending their immigration proceedings except that if they bring children with them they will be released into the country, regardless of the fact that most will not show up at their hearings. The result of this could only be to encourage illegal immigrants to drag children with them and to create a market for children to accompany otherwise-childless illegal immigrants, drastically increasing both the number of illegal immigrants and the number of children subjected to the rigors of cross-country travel by foot. Is that the preferred solution?

    Ted Cruz has a proposed bill that might solve the problem. It would:

    • Double the number of federal immigration judges, from roughly 375 to 750.

    • Authorize new temporary shelters, with accommodations to keep families together.

    • Mandate that illegal immigrant families must be kept together, absent aggravated criminal conduct or threat of harm to the children.

    • Provide for expedited processing and review of asylum cases, so that—within 14 days—those who meet the legal standards will be granted asylum, and those who do not will be immediately returned to their home countries.

    What are the chances that the Democrats will go along with this, considering that if they do so they will give up a potent political hammer to use against Republicans?

  12. Nicholas Conrad says

    “By any reasonable account, it’s necessary to have and enforce immigration laws.”

    The idea that it somehow becomes ‘right’ to lock peaceful people in cages like dangerous animals (or fill them with holes) because they stepped 1 foot over an imaginary line is ludicrous on its face. The term is ‘magical thinking’ and an affront to reason and rationality.

    • Sean Wood says

      Talk to Congress about that. They’re the ones who made it a crime to enter the U.S. illegally. Is it also magical thinking to propose that any law we disagree with should be ignored? What’s your solution to the problem of illegal immigrants bringing children with them?

    • Mike says

      Nicholas Conrad, does this mean my buddies and I can crash at your place? Heck, why am I even asking!?

    • gda says

      Hyperbole, much?

      But not to worry, the Wall is on its way.

    • LAW says

      This is exactly the kind of argument that is not helpful and irritating to so many.

      People who cross into the country without the proper visa/citizenship are breaking federal immigration laws. That is not up for debate. Pretending like they are innocent and accidentally tripped and fell over the border is completely disingenuous.

      And borders are very real lines. Every country in the world has immigration control, and for good reason. You seem to be making an argument that we shouldn’t be allowed to enforce ANY immigration laws. That is ridiculous, and the fact that many who are outraged by this seem to have few alternate solutions other than completely ignoring “immoral” immigration laws helps solidify my position that Trump’s policy isn’t nearly as bad as some would have you believe. There is nothing immoral about having immigration laws.

      • You guys keep arguing that they are breaking federal immigration law. The argument here, is that they are not:

        “Two things are worth noting here. First, it’s unreasonable to require a person to use an official crossing point if that crossing point is closed. Second, most migrants turn themselves in—the days of undetected crossings ended years ago. Surely, turning yourself in when you’ve entered at an unofficial crossing point falls into the category of “presenting to authorities without delay,” as required by Article 31. In an imperfect situation, where life is more difficult than it otherwise needs to be, innocent people, who are likely to be unfamiliar with US and international law, may be doing their best to act in good faith. So, the nature of the crossing is not a sufficient criterion for assessing its legitimacy.”

        Many more judges are needed, with much faster processing and families kept together in comfort. These are asylum seekers, not criminals nor animals. The current situation makes America look like that shining shithole upon a hill whose cruel darkness disgusts freedom-loving people everywhere.

        • Bill says

          Here’s the flaw in your logic: If “most migrants turn themselves in” and then (during catch & release) given a summons for their hearing…if they were so “lawful” and only doing this because the official crossings are closed — then why do 90% of them fail to appear for their summons? Surely if they were legit asylum seekers, only crossing illegally because the official, legal point of entry were closed, then we’d see a 90% appearance rate on the summons wouldn’t we? Or perhaps, those 90% who fail to appear know their asylum claim is pure bunkum?

        • Sean Wood says

          You guys keep arguing that they are breaking federal immigration law. The argument here, is that they are not

          But that argument has obviously been tried in court and has failed. If the law gives a reasonable procedure (as determined by a court) that must be followed in order to apply for asylum, then somebody’s assertion that he prefers a different procedure is irrelevant.

          The current situation makes America look like that shining shithole upon a hill whose cruel darkness disgusts freedom-loving people everywhere.

          And you think people are going to view American this way until we agree to grant unrestricted entry into the country to every person who accepts it, requiring only that they promise to appear at their immigration hearings and to leave if they lose? Since that would turn us into a laughing-stock we do seem to be on the horns of a dilemma.

          • “And you think people are going to view American this way until we agree to grant unrestricted entry into the country to every person who accepts it, requiring only that they promise to appear at their immigration hearings and to leave if they lose?”

            No. Many more judges are needed, with much faster processing and families kept together in comfort. These are asylum seekers, not criminals nor animals. The US can afford to both treat these asylum seekers well, and to expedite their processing. The current system only exists because so many voters see these people as subhuman.

            Even if you look at this from a purely selfish viewpoint, there can’t really be any benefit to the US from engendering so much hatred and disgust from the outside world.

          • Sean Wood says

            No. Many more judges are needed, with much faster processing and families kept together in comfort.

            This appears to be the Cruz proposal. I support it. Suppose the Democrats block it. Then children cannot be detained with parents. What then?

        • Sevan Claig says

          Strange they keep pouring into what you call a shining shithole upon a hill, little moppets in tow.

      • LaurieColvin says

        It’s rare to see but some of these comments are very reasonable and add more to subject than the original article. I am a former Democrat and I used to believe some of the things that are being said. But most things are not what they appear to be and many do-good policies actually do harm. I too believed that many people crossing the border were escaping death from drug cartels and gangs. But many of those people are mixed up in some way with the drug cartels and the whole culture of that way of life comes over the border with them. Yes, their lives might be in danger but once safely settled, some naturally choose to find others from their country, familiar with the same cultural norms that they are used to and and fall back into the same activities or perhaps become supportive of it. When there is no family structure then gangs can become a way of life. There was a documentary about this and how it is changing life in parts of Long Island. This is just one example of pre-conceived notions about immigrants crossing our Mexican border. Thank you to the people who have added some useful information and reasonable arguments to this discussion.

  13. Mike says

    Releasing families together may be “easier,” but like many other scenarios, the easier path leads to negative consequences down the line. More specifically, if the law treats you more leniently if you bring kids with you, more immigrants will bring kids with them. A policy that encourages child trafficking is *not* a good policy.

    Allowing for family detention while claims are processed (and providing adequate resources and guideliens to process such claims in timely fashion and treat detainees humanely during their detention) seems like the best solution (except that it requires Congress to act in the best interests of people other than themselves).

  14. Nick Ender says

    >Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein
    >human rights

  15. “If the state cannot fulfil this duty of care due to resource constraints, then the state ought not to take charge of the person at all, unless doing so is essential to the safety of its citizens.”

    Well this covers it. Letting in any undocumented person into the US is an inherent threat to safety of US citizens. Period. Furthermore, the US already has a crisis of resource to provide to its own citizens. How would we have the resources to take in an unlimited amount of immigrants because we are “morally” obligated to do so? Shouldn’t the moral obligation of a state to adhere to its own citizens come first and foremost?

    Its incorrect to believe that people against open borders have no sympathy. The approach must be with logic and reason. Emotion has no place in the equation to make the correct decisions. US citizens MUST come first.

    • Spent any time living in a working class neighborhood in Honduras lately? The provincialism here is astounding. What sort of motivation do you think it takes to leave your home, your extended family, your friends and everything you’ve known as ‘life’ and trek into a foreign land full of strangers who hate you?

  16. gda says

    I have a solution to the “problem”.

    Each person expressing such hyperbole about the “children” at the border should be forced to take home one or two of these children to live with them in their gated communities until such time as their parents have been processed.

    An elegant solution? After all, those who shout the loudest should be prepared to offer their homes up to the poor children, right?

    This entire nonsense will, however, be most helpful to President Trump, in the same way the “Windrush scandal” helped May in Britain.

    “Then a funny thing happened. In the wake of the scandal, the government outperformed expectations in local elections, and in fact ever since Theresa May has been pulling away in the polls. Well-informed British political analysts now say that her party benefitted from Windrush, since voters appreciated the toughness on immigration even to the point of being cruel.”

    “American voters can tell when the media is working itself into a self-righteous lather, and they don’t like it. They loathe journalists as much as they despise politicians, and they abhor the media’s blindness to immigration concerns.”

    • Jack B. Nimble says

      @gda Just as JFK is often called the first US president to master the TV age, so Trump is really the first president to master the internet age.

      Trump knows that the legacy media love a crisis and love drama. So he creates a series of made-for-TV crises using the following template:

      1…. Ramp up tensions [with N Korea].
      2…..Blame the problems on his predecessors, particularly Obama and Bush II.
      3…. Get his message out with tweets and photo ops that the legacy media will obsess over.
      4…..Announce dramatically that only he, Trump the Great, can solve the problem that others tried and failed to solve. During steps 1-4, continue to attack the legacy media, even though they are his chief enablers.

      Repeat as often as desired. Just change [with N Korea] to [at the US-Mexico border] or to [with our traditional trading partners] or to [with Iran], etc.

      • gda says

        Well, I can’t argue that Trump thrives on chaos. But I rather think you may be mixing up the leftist Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals” with Donald Trumps’s “Art of the Deal”.

        But that particular template (about NK) sort of falls apart when you recall what was happening in the period before Trump’s election.
        Feb 2013 – detonated a miniaturized nuclear device
        Jan 2016 – detonated a “miniaturized” hydrogen bomb
        Sep 2016 – conducted their biggest ever nuclear test, setting off a hydrogen bomb

        And what did Obama tell Trump about NK on their way to the inauguration? He warned Trump that the North Korean threat was the most pressing one the new president would face.

        And Trump made it his number 1 priority. None of his actions were spontaneous – we know now that this was carefully planned.

        Also, it happens that Trump has been talking about what he would do with NK for 20 years. Now he’s doing it.

        But yes, Trump IS a master of persuasion, there’s no doubt. And what he’s mainly persuading Congress to implement are common sense policies. Well over two-thirds of the American people, for example, agree with him on immigration, because it is simple common sense.

        • Jack B. Nimble says

          @gda — OK, the N Korea business was a bit of a thread-jack. But I want to add that events today are proceeding right according to the template: Trump is considering an executive order to stop the family separations at the border. In other words……..

          1…….Trump declares that there is a humanitarian crisis at the US-Mexico border
          2…….Trump blames Congress for its inaction and gridlock (duh)
          3……..(shhhhh….. don’t you dare ask who created this crisis in the first place)
          4…….Trump announces that he is stepping in where others have failed to save the day.

          Lather, Rinse, Repeat.

  17. Eric says

    This article spawned a lot of weird comments.

    • Mike says

      I think Quillette readership tends to lean conservative (though not necessarily Trumpian), so an article criticizing a conservative position/policy will draw a different style of comments than the more typical article criticizing progressive positions/policies. This issue in particular is unique in that it touches on highly-emotional matters and pretty complex legal/policy matters (i.e., you can’t just “keep families together” without either declining to prosecute or getting Congress to change the law).

  18. Sean Wood says

    The problem seems to be 8 U.S. Code § 1232(c)(2)(A), which says “A child shall not be placed in a secure facility absent a determination that the child poses a danger to self or others or has been charged with having committed a criminal offense.” What were they thinking? This prevents them from letting the kids stay with detained parents.

    …an unaccompanied alien child in the custody of the Secretary of Health and Human Services shall be promptly placed in the least restrictive setting that is in the best interest of the child. In making such placements, the Secretary may consider danger to self, danger to the community, and risk of flight. Placement of child trafficking victims may include placement in an Unaccompanied Refugee Minor program, pursuant to section 412(d) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1522(d)), if a suitable family member is not available to provide care. A child shall not be placed in a secure facility absent a determination that the child poses a danger to self or others or has been charged with having committed a criminal offense. The placement of a child in a secure facility shall be reviewed, at a minimum, on a monthly basis, in accordance with procedures prescribed by the Secretary, to determine if such placement remains warranted.

    • LAW says

      “Secure facility” has a specific meaning (jail/prison), and a fenced in area is not considered that.

      They are arguing that this is the “least restrictive setting that is in the best interest of the child”, invoking the clause above that.

      Bigger picture – you seem to be arguing against fencing unaccompanied minors in at all. Don’t you think things would be worse if we didn’t keep the kids contained? We’d be reading horror stories about 8 year olds dying in the desert, etc. Or to put it differently, what is YOUR solution? It certainly seems that enforcing immigration law is messy and painful no matter how you do it.

      • Sean Wood says

        “Secure facility” has a specific meaning (jail/prison), and a fenced in area is not considered that.

        I wondered about that and got to this page, clicked on “secure” facility, and was shown this definition:

        Secure. As used to define a detention or correctional facility this term includes residential facilities which include construction features designed to physically restrict the movements and activities of persons in custody such as locked rooms and buildings, fences, or other physical structures. It does not include facilities where physical restriction of movement or activity is provided solely through facility staff.

        This would certainly describe any facility housing illegal immigrants and their families.

        They are arguing that this is the “least restrictive setting that is in the best interest of the child”, invoking the clause above that.

        They could have left it at “least restrictive setting” but they went on and said that such a setting could not be a secure facility.

        Bigger picture – you seem to be arguing against fencing unaccompanied minors in at all.

        Not at all. I am criticizing the law that says that minors cannot be held in secure facilities. Such facilities could be built which, together with a dramatic increase in immigration judges, would not have to be used for any one family for more than two or three weeks. (However, I recognize that people legitimately claiming political asylum shouldn’t be turned away if they can’t document their complaint immediately. I don’t know how long is reasonable.)

  19. DBruce says

    A new deal has to be struck with the 3rd world. We need a worldwide Georgist (re-)awakening.
    It’s the land stupid.

    • How about a deal to legalize drugs? When it was brought up by Latin American countries at the Americas Summit five years ago, Obama would not even agree to a discussion. US banks, after all, launder most of the money.

  20. NomNom says

    I hate the way people interchange “immigrant” with “asylum seeker.” You’re not an asylum seeeker just because you live in a poor country. This author is sneaky- claiming that most people “seek out border agents”. Seeing as how we only catch about 50% of people illegally crossing the border (according to official estimates), we know that the author is straight up BSing.

    • LAW says

      I laid out the numbers in a comment above – 99.7% of people who cross the southern border do not receive asylum. All this talk about asylum seekers is magnifying the an extremely small segment of the border crossing population to try to win a debate. When defenders have to resort to these kinds of tactics, it is generally a sign of fundamental weakness in their argument.

      Basically, pro-open borders types know that cracking down on Mexican adults crossing the border illegally might actually play well, so they hone in on an edge case (families / with small children / seeking legitimate asylum) that is extremely uncommon but makes for some good outrage.

  21. Sean Wood says

    It seems that the only decent option is the one that the US refuses to allow—monitoring families in a setting outside of detention facilities.

    But what does it mean to “monitor families”? Does that mean that we check in on them every few weeks until such times as we discover that they have left and nobody knows where they are? In other words, any illegal immigrant who brings a child is set loose in the country and asked to report for his immigration hearing?

  22. They aren’t asylum seekers, proven by the fact so many passed through Mexico and didn’t stay there. They are illegal immigrants lying about asylum in the hope of being allowed to stay.

    • Tom Darlington says

      Maybe they didn’t stay there because they know the US is safer? Maybe the violence they’re fleeing is centered in Mexico.

      And if they surrender to authorities and request asylum are they not asylum seekers by definition?

      • ga gamba says

        Maybe they didn’t stay there because they know the US is safer?

        That can’t be right. Haven’t you heard? American is the land of white supremacy and all whites are always racist all the time everywhere. The systems and institutions are chock full of ists and obics.

        Also, Trump is literally Hitler and Pol Pot. With a bit of Freddie Kruger added too. Who’d feel safe with that?

        Anyway, since people are leaving social problems, ones that could be fixed by electing less corrupt officials and cracking down on criminal gangs for example, and shopping for greener pastures, presumably the Americans may seek asylum in Canada. Having much less violence there it’s safer.

        Advisable to take a look at the conventions on asylum and revise.

    • This isn’t really about immigration.

      Trump is willing to abuse small children and their parents in order to force any compassionate (weak) legislator to give him what he’s demanded as payment for stopping the abuse. He’s on TV telling us that this is necessary and he will stop the abuse if congress gives him what he wants. He’s telling us that It’s the Democrats fault this continues, because he would stop if they give in to his demands.

      If he doesn’t get what he wants, will he step up the abuse? Maybe start torturing the children on TV. Instead of kids crying, we could listen to kids screaming until we give him what he demands. After all, they’re only brown people. His supporters will be OK with that. God uses bad people to further His unknowable purpose, so evangelicals should be OK with that.

      I don’t think he really cares about the wall. He certainly doesn’t care about the people of the United States or the rest of the free world. He only cares about getting what he wants. His land, full of white people. Even if most of them hate him. He the STRONG and revered sovereign. Forever.

  23. John says

    I commend you for parsing the details in a mostly objective way unlike the emotional partisan takes I usually see on this issue. But I do think you need to at least address what Sessions means by concern for the children, and that is the perilous journey from Central America through Mexico these families have to endure. generally they pay a gang/trafficking organization and according to an amnesty international study a few years ago 60% of girls who make it are raped. so I think any humane thing we can do to discourage that is a good thing, though I would strongly prefer to find a way that didn’t involve separating families.

    • One humane thing the US government should be doing is heavily promoting the statistics on violence by the traffickers and doing so in the countries where people hire them. Create Youtube videos with the victims sharing their stories. Don’t let naive victims be taken that way.

  24. OtherWay says

    Here, I fixed it for the author. ‘Surely, turning yourself in when you’ve entered at an unofficial crossing point falls into the category of “cutting the line and breaking the rules”.
    Either their are rules and fairness or there is anarchy and open borders.
    It is pretty clear the leftists don’t care about rules – they just want their votes and power.

  25. Rick says

    “The UN’s Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees provides immigrants with the right to seek asylum and forbids states from deterring asylum seekers. Although states may apply necessary restrictions on movement, they may not impose penalties on account of illegal entry or presence, provided that migrants present themselves without delay and show good cause for entry.”

    If you are getting caught as opposed to presenting yourself, you aren’t following the rules of the UN. The border is a lot easier to cross at border checkpoints and you will not be separated for claiming asylum there. This isn’t that hard.

  26. Treat Williams says

    Kids are not jailed with their parents when they commit crimes and the parents are not released for the sake of the kids.

    The issue here really seems to be one of how to humanely handle the children who are caught in the middle. That is a question of infrastructure, personnel and procedures – resources.

    On the left, making separating children from parents per se the crime against humanity here is disingenuous, though in the blizzard of opinion and debate surrounding this it’s hard to isolate that question. Some are just confused and others are obviously using this to further soften the borders. And I think some people don’t even know what they want.

    On the right, there is definitely some off-putting glee from some quarters under the guise of pragmatism that is provoking the left into going nuts.

    Clearly, ignoring this “loophole” has only made the problem worse, but that’s if you consider illegal immigration a problem in the first place. What needs to be stated up front by everyone arguing is where they stand on that. If there’s disagreement there, then this just becomes a corollary that is meaningless to debate.

  27. Kessler says

    Zero Tolerance Policy = Rule of Law. I can see how a traffic officer can have some discretion on issuing a ticket or small matters could be resolved without involvement of the law, but in serious matters, like illegal immigration, it would be wildly irresponsible to allow state agents to pick and chose, which laws they enforce and which they don’t.

    I’m not convinced that a few cases of things going wrong with this policy prove state’s inability to care for children. The number of cases is great and by simple statistics, there would be a few exceptional situations. Of course, if the flow of illegal immigrants grows further without increase in resources allocated to this problem, things would get worse. It’s best that it doesn’t happen.

    And finally, I also feel, that the choice of parents in the matter is getting downplayed. Parents chose to take their children with them and parents chose to be separated from children, by claiming asylum. I can see how for the small percentage of legitimate asylum seekers that is indeed a harsh choice, but I would not call it inhumane or unbearable. It’s the cost inflicted by large number of people, abusing asylum system, choosing to use their children to game it. I’m not certain, sending children to detention centers with their parents is much better. Maybe it is – and hopefully, laws would be passed soon to improve the situation.

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  29. Daco says

    Fvck ‘em. The can Sra y in Mexico and apply for whatever status they deem appropriate over there, or their children will enjoy daycare at the US taxpayers expense. MAGA!

  30. Benjamin A. Smith says

    I am genuinely curious about this: Why is it immoral to jail someone for the crime of crossing the boarder illegally, but not immoral to jail someone for committing other crimes? In both situations, the criminals are separated from their children, but why is the one immoral and the other is not?

  31. “The UN’s Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees provides immigrants with the right to seek asylum and forbids states from deterring asylum seekers.”

    Hmmm. If only we let the UN determine US law on immigration instead of Congress and the President. That peskey US Constitution keeps getting in the way, doesn’t it?

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  33. Cluebat says

    This problem is a direct result of Mexico shirking its sovereign responsibilities in exercising rule of law. It is how the Alta California and Texas territories were lost.
    America would be justified in constructing facilities along the border on occupied Mexican soil, until they are able to correct this.

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