By: Craig Kline
It’s so loud that if you listen hard enough you can could probably hear it even through the airless vacuum of space. I am, of course, referring to the furor over the policy of separating the children of illegal border crossers from their families. Previously people who were apprehended crossing the border were held in immigration detention and had to appear before an immigration judge to see if they would be deported or not. Now, they’re mostly being referred for criminal prosecution. And therein lies the problem. Anyone referred for criminal prosecution gets sent to Federal prison to wait for a hearing to see if they’ll have to do time, and if so how much.
There are two things that should be clarified: 1) Undocumented border crossing has always been (and should be) a crime, and 2) Once someone has been charged criminally and sent to jail you obviously can’t send the kids with them. This is the separation we’ve all heard so much about.
And just so we’re all on the same page I’m going to say it one more time: our government is not breaking the law, our government is enforcing the law. The problem is the iron fisted way they’re doing it.
Let’s get the glaringly obvious humanitarian concerns out of the way. Obama deported vast number of people without separating families. In fact, according to multiple news outlets (ABC, The Economist, and many others) Obama evicted more illegal immigrants than any other president before him. Mass deportation can and has been achieved without separating families. Our law enforcement goals are not impeded by letting undocumented immigrants keep their children with them while their status is being decided.
Ok, now that that’s out of the way let’s discuss the exciting ways in which this policy is shooting us in the foot. According to a notice published by the Federal Bureau of Prisons in the 2016 Federal Register, at that time it cost an average of $31,977.65 ($87.61 per day) to incarcerate an inmate. The US Customs and Border Protection website shows that during May, 2018 they apprehended 51,905 people illegally crossing the US border. A typical sentence for a repeat border crosser is one year. Obviously not all of them are adults, nor will all of them be incarcerated, but if 10% of those people wind up in prison it will cost us $160 million to lock them up for that long.
On top of the financial price this policy is ruining (what’s left of) our humanitarian reputation, dividing the country worse than ever before and it’s being wrongly applied to legitimate asylum seekers who will be killed if they’re forced to go back where they came from. So let’s put a stop to it once and for all. We have enough problems without burying ourselves in another one we simply don’t need.