THE Trump administration’s position on immigration is simply summarised: it would like to have fewer immigrants, whether legal or illegal. But that aim, shared by both President Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions, the attorney-general, has collided with pesky obstacles like laws, courts and public outrage. It has also provoked chaos on the southern border. A new “zero-tolerance” policy, announced in May, referred adults caught illegally crossing the border to criminal prosecution and required that accompanying children be separated and held in specialised facilities. That resulted in the spectacle of small, terrified children in cages, shocking the world. On June 20th the administration reversed its policy, instead opting to hold families together in detention. Now two legal losses for the administration make this compromise untenable.
The first, decided by a federal judge in San Diego on June 26th, criticised the administration’s “reactive governance responses to address a chaotic circumstance of the government’s own making,” which violated migrants’ due-process rights. The judge lambasted the federal government’s failure to track separated children and its failure to plan for their eventual reunification with their families. Authorities tended to give more care and attention to seized cars and property than to the children of illegal immigrants, he wrote. The judge forbade the Trump administration from separating more such families and ordered that it reunify separated children and parents within one month. He gave the government 14 days to reunite 102 children aged under five with their parents. But the deadline of July 10th came and went with only one-third of those small children back with their parents, thanks to chaotic organisation and a lack of tracking. Some children had been without their parents for so long that they no longer recognised them.
By THE ECONOMIST
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