Dan Stein: New regulation on detaining illegal immigrants will reduce child abuse, rapes, assaults and deaths

The announcement Wednesday by the Department of Homeland Security that it will issue a regulation allowing families of illegal immigrants to be detained together longer while awaiting immigration hearings is welcome news that will end court-sanctioned child abuse and endangerment.

The new regulation will strike a blow against criminal cartels that engage in human smuggling and will reduce the terrible death toll of migrants making the dangerous journey to enter the U.S. illegally from south of our border. By reducing illegal immigration, the regulation will also reduce the number of rapes and other assaults against migrants on their trek north.

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan said the new regulation will eliminate an interpretation of a 1997 court settlement known as the Flores agreement that set a 20-day limit on the detention of unaccompanied children who are apprehended crossing the border illegally.


In 2015 a lone federal judge ruled that the 20-day limitation must also apply to minors who arrive as part of family units. That ruling was accepted by the Obama administration.

"Today, the government has issued a critical rule that will permit the Department of Homeland Security to appropriately hold families together and improve the integrity of the immigration system,” McAleenan said. “This rule allows the federal government to enforce immigration laws as passed by Congress and ensures that all children in U.S. government custody are treated with dignity, respect, and special concern for their particular vulnerability.”

McAleenan said the new regulation will eliminate an interpretation of the Flores agreement that has “substantially caused and continued to fuel” the crisis caused by a huge increase in illegal immigration on our southern border.

The acting Homeland Security secretary said the new regulation will take effect 60 days after it is published in the Federal Register, which will likely happen Friday. He said that in addition to allowing families to be held together longer while they await immigration hearings, the regulation will create national standards for how children should be held in detention.

Unfortunately, the new regulation is sure to be challenged in court – an action that might prevent its implementation while a lengthy court battle is waged.

 In the 2013 fiscal year, 14,855 people were apprehended at our southern border attempting to enter illegally as family units. That’s a lot of people, but so far in the 2019 fiscal year an astounding 432,838 such illegal immigrants have been apprehended.

All policies and court rulings have unintended consequences. The Flores agreement has had tragic unintended consequences.

In a less politically polarized time, Democrats would join Republicans in Congress to get rid of this harmful agreement. Unfortunately, that is not happening, as Democrats continue to oppose virtually every action by the Trump administration to enforce immigration laws passed by Congress.

As a result of the Flores agreement and other factors, there has been a spike in family units crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally. There has also been a spike in fake families crossing the border illegally, as adults arrive in the company of children who are not their own.

Tragically, this big jump in illegal border crossings has placed children in harm’s way. An untold number have died along the journey before they reach our border. Others arrive in desperately poor shape, suffering from a variety of serious diseases.

In a few instances, children have died after entering the United States, sparking cries of outrage by the very people who fight to maintain the status quo.

The data leave little doubt that Flores agreement – particularly the 2015 expansion to cover children crossing the border with real or fake families – is primarily responsible for the current crisis at the border.

Just look at these remarkable statistics: In the 2013 fiscal year, 14,855 people were apprehended at our southern border attempting to enter illegally as family units. That’s a lot of people, but so far in the 2019 fiscal year an astounding 432,838 such illegal immigrants have been apprehended – a 2,800 percent increase.

Even more telling, the Customs and Border Protection agency reports that in 2014, just 1 percent of the adult men the agency apprehended entering illegally had a child with them. Now nearly 50 percent do.

Adults of both sexes who were previously caught entering the U.S. illegally and removed when they showed up on their own are now returning with children. The Flores agreement has unquestionably turned kids into get-out-of-jail-free cards.

Congress has the power to end this harmful policy of sanctioned child abuse anytime it wants. That would make the new Homeland Security regulation unnecessary and ensure the new Trump administration policy would continue with the force of law even after President Trump leaves office.

Unfortunately, Congress has failed to act on this important issue.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., has a sensible and effective bill ready to go that has not even been brought before the Republican-controlled Senate, much the less the Democratic-controlled House.


In the absence of anything more than crocodile tears from many in Congress and open borders advocates, the Trump administration’s new regulation announced Wednesday is the best available option.

Unless Congress acts, the list of options that the administration can implement to stop the use of children as human pawns is a very short one. Given the current volume of illegal immigrants flooding across our southern border, the 20-day limit on family detention all but guarantees that showing up with a child will result the release of many thousands of illegal immigrants from federal custody.

There is little likelihood that either the adults or children released due to the Flores agreement will ever appear for immigration hearings. Instead, they simply remain in the U.S. illegally, adding to the millions of illegal immigrants already living here.

The more this happens, the more children will be placed in danger by adults and criminal smugglers in an attempt to gain entry to the United States.

Holding families as a unit until a determination can be made about whether they have a claim to enter the United States will deter people who have no valid claim from exploiting and endangering children. It will keep legitimate families together throughout the process, in suitable facilities with access to health care and education.


Despite the inevitable invective that is already being hurled at the Trump administration for issuing the new regulation to revise the deeply flawed Flores settlement, the regulation is humane and sensible.

Critics of the new Homeland Security policy are effectively condoning child abuse in order to achieve their own political objectives. It’s time for Democrats in Congress to set aside partisanship and work on a bipartisan basis to deal with the immigration crisis that the Flores agreement has created.