Last week’s Senate Homeland Security hearing on the continuing unaccompanied minors surge coincided with the introduction of Chairman Ron Johnson and Senator Sessions’ Protection of Children Act (S. 2561), a bill that, among other things, promises to require the government to collect “certain basic information about individuals to whose custody unaccompanied alien children are released.” That provision is no doubt in response to reports from the Associated Press and elsewhere that “overwhelmed U.S. officials” at Health and Human Services, the agency tasked with placing Unaccompanied Alien Minors (UAMs) with sponsors, had been ignoring vetting standards such as fingerprinting, proper identification and criminal background-checks resulting in thousands of the minors being placed in homes where they were sexually assaulted, starved, or forced to work for no pay. Missing from Tuesday’s hearing, however, was any mention of who’s really responsible for the gruesome findings: open-borders activists themselves.
For years, immigration authorities maintained a child-protective policy of placing UAMs with parents only. That all changed when two open-borders attorneys filed a class action suit on behalf of four Salvadorian illegal immigrants in 1985. The resulting outcome, which let minors skip detention and stay with mere “sponsors,” has been hailed ever since as one of the first major legal “wins” by the anti-sovereignty movement. Until now, perhaps.
Veteran open-borders attorneys, Carlos Holguin of the National Immigrants’ Rights Council (or NIRC, later renamed the National Immigration Law Center) and Peter Schey (the first Executive Director of NIRC) at the time argued that the government’s then-parents-only release policy was simply a ruse to “interrogate” the parents in the hopes of deporting them back to “civil war.” Holguin and Schey’s strategy was clear: allow UAMs to also be transferred to mere “sponsors” and more could avoid detention and get a better chance at winning asylum (with the unsuccessful simply being able to skip their removal hearings).
The strategy was gradual. Schey and Holguin initially broke the government’s release policy by convincing a judge to allow for court-appointed guardians. Then they began attacking the “poor conditions” at detention facilities to justify their claims. As Holguin’s said in interviews since, “the real fight was about detaining the minors in the first place.”
The case, Flores v. Meese, was closed after a decade of litigation in 1997 resulting in the now well-known “Flores settlement” which mandated that UAMs be released promptly or be provided “safe and appropriate” placement during custody. For these Schey and Holguin, the breakdown in vetting from overwhelmed officials is a cruel bit of irony for those kids now being subjected to sexual abuse.
The Flores settlement has since been expanded and has become a major weapon in the war against our borders. The latest expansion, ordered by California federal judge Dolly Gee, created heightened detention standards for illegal alien-minors who were accompanied by their parents at the border. With that win (also engineered by Schey and Holguin), coupled with the post-DACA surge of UAMs, now every open-borders attorney is piling on. Already, numerous class actions have been filed against our immigration authorities complaining of such “inhumane” treatment as being served “cold burritos” for lunch and being searched on poorly swept floors.
The problem with Flores, besides allowing children to be picked up by strangers, is that it sets up an impossible and inevitably-challenged standard. Someone can always find a problem with a detention facility. Once attorneys are granted discovery, they can flood into a facility and nit-pick it for poor lighting, too much lighting, “bad food”, etc. This is especially true for facilities ill-equipped to handle surge-numbers or new facilities built on a rush-basis.
This is likely the intention. As the government itself has stated in its argument against expanding Flores, less UAM-detainment only leads to greater UAM-surges — Judge Gee called this “speculative” and “fear-mongering.” And greater surges leave the government even less prepared to build new detention centers or maintain the adequacy of current ones. Meanwhile, there’s the constant drumbeat for amnesty and the halting of deportations from groups like the Soros-funded NILC and others. In effect, these groups lobby for conditions that make adequate detainment impossible then sue when those conditions become “substandard.”
Activists’ endless allusion to “children” and “families” meanwhile is likely more about politics than anything else. Before Flores, Schey and Holguin led the 1980s “sanctuary movement” which sought to make legal services available to far-left activists fleeing El Salvador and other war-torn Central American nations which US foreign policy was faulted for. Speaking about Congressional Democrats in 1980, Linda Wong of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) connected far-left politics with the open-borders movement when she stated, “While they have not hesitated to speak out against Reagan for his continued support of dictatorships, they also have not been quick to condemn Simpson-Mazzoli (an employer-sanctions bill).” “It is this gap”, she continued, “which must be closed in the next phase.”
Further proof that open-borders groups’ veneration of children is simply cynical theatre is that some children are apparently more worthy than others. Operation Babylift was President Ford’s attempt after the fall of Saigon to move thousands of South Vietnamese orphans to welcoming families in the U.S. The National Immigration Project, an appendage of NLG and precursor to NILC, filed a class action lawsuit blocking the move because, according to NLG’s newsletter at the time, “The new government of South Vietnam, via telegram, indicated its desire for the return of the children and its commitment to assist them in rejoining their families.” Ironically, NLG’s sister organization, the Center for Constitutional Rights, called Ford’s effort a “cynical” use of children and demanded that the children be first interviewed and traced back to Vietnam, which critics countered by claiming this would lead to retaliation against relatives from the newly installed Communist government.
It’s time for immigration control-activists to assert their moral authority over the immigration issue. After all, it is they who want to help the poor of the world build up and improve their own nations; not lure their children across our border and ignore the results when tragedy strikes.