Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical left and Islamic terrorism.
What the media has been falsely calling President Trump’s family separation policy began with Hollywood actor Ed Asner’s housekeeper and a lawsuit by the ACLU during the Reagan administration.
The issue was child trafficking.
Teenage girls were being smuggled into the United States. Some were being sent on to their illegal alien family members in the United States. Others were being sent to the United States as cheap labor or being trafficked for prostitution. People purporting to be family members might show up asking for them to be released into their custody. And immigration authorities were faced with a horrible situation.
The ACLU was less interested in the teens than in Attorney General Edwin Meese. Reagan’s AG was the Sessions of the day. A man whose name so enraged the left-wing group that at one point it circulated petitions demanding that Reagan fire Meese and called him the most dangerous official since Nixon.
Flores v. Meese, the case that led to the family separation policy, was born with Ed Asner's housekeeper and the ACLU's obsession with Meese. But the case, with various AGs replacing Meese, dragged on. And the ACLU went on insisting that refusing to release teenage illegal aliens violated the Constitution.
In ’93, when Jenny Lisette Flores, the girl at the center of the original case, was 23, the Supreme Court finally ruled 7-2 against the ACLU and rejected its bizarre claim that illegal teens had a right to be released. The verdict was brutal and made a hash of the ACLU’s opportunistic misreading of the Constitution.
And that should have been it. But by then it wasn’t Flores v. Meese, but Flores v. Reno.
The Clinton administration then threw the case with what is known as the Flores Settlement in 1997. By then the titular Flores was 27 years old. The settlement required releasing underage illegal aliens into the least restrictive setting. And that meant that they couldn’t be detained alongside illegal alien adults.
The Flores Settlement was the ACLU’s big victory. And the partisan lefty group went on using it to batter successive administrations into loosening conditions on underage detainees. And then, a few weeks ago, the narrative flipped. The “least restrictive conditions” that the left had been fighting for since the eighties suddenly became the worst atrocity since slavery, Japanese internment and the Holocaust.
Holding underage migrants in “least restrictive conditions” meant separating them from their parents.
The media’s defiantly fake news coverage is so bad that it described President Trump’s executive order trying to modify the Flores Settlement, an ACLU sweetheart deal with the Clinton administration, as a retreat. The executive order proposes to detain illegal alien families together, but that may end up violating the Flores Agreement which is why Trump is asking for a modification of the Clinton program.
Flores lawsuits in the past had fought against detaining families together except under least restrictive conditions.
None of this satisfies the left which used the claims of family separation only as a wedge issue to restore the open borders policies of the previous administration. Its goal is to end the detention of illegal aliens.
Despite the media’s claims, this isn’t a new problem.
The supposed 2,300 “children” separated from their families are consistent with past numbers of over 4,000. The real problem is that the floods of illegal aliens overload the resources of INS and now ICE. That’s particularly true when it comes to underage teens and children. And the left also knows that if it can get an illegal alien out of custody, it will be almost impossible to get him or her back into custody.
The Flores Settlement requires detaining illegal alien border crossers separately from any minors coming with them. But if these alleged families are detained together, then the left will accuse the administration of locking up entire families. And indeed, after President Trump’s executive order, the media’s fake news spin is already twisting to accuse a cruel administration of locking up families.
Despite the media’s hysterical innuendo and propaganda, no Republican wants to detain children. The trafficking of children across the border is an open borders problem. It would not exist if the border were secured. And the Democrats have fought against any serious effort to secure the border.
That’s why Flores isn’t going anywhere.
In 2016, Flores v. Lynch was filed. Jenny, the original teenage girl, was now 46 years old. The occasion was the flood of so-called unaccompanied minors in response to Obama’s open border policies.
Once again the flood of illegal aliens overloaded ICE resources. That incarnation of the lawsuit insisted that the Flores Settlement required the government to hold families in the same conditions as the minors. And to expeditiously release both minors and accompanying adults.
That was often the policy of the Clinton administration. But the security measures of 9/11 ended that. And that’s what the protests are really about.
When media activists began posting photos of detained minors under the Obama administration (while misrepresenting them as images taken during the Trump administration) they were really highlighting the consequences of open borders.
Open borders doesn’t mean that everyone gets in. What they really mean is that, much like Europe, a flood of migrants and a lack of meaningful enforcement overwhelms immigration authorities. Many migrants make it through. Some are detained. And the conditions of their detention are often unhappy because immigration authorities don’t have the resources to keep up with the sheer scale of the crisis.
Because border security can’t be entirely dismantled, even by Democrat administrations innately hostile to the idea, the wave of migrants actually ends up increasing the number of those being detained.
It’s not border security, but the lack of it that leads to adults and children being detained in substandard conditions. And Republican bills to improve conditions, detain families together and secure the border are being stifled by Democrats who don’t want border security, but do want to exploit a political crisis.
The right’s preferred solution is border security and the left’s solution of choice is open borders.
Only border security will solve the problem.
The latest incarnations of Flores, who is now pushing 50, would give a free pass to any illegal migrant bringing a child with him into this country. That would be a gift to human traffickers. And that is why the ban on releasing children into the custody of anyone except a legitimate guardian was implemented.
The decades of Flores wars undermined a policy that was there to protect detained minors.
The media has accused Republicans of child abuse. But the Flores campaign enabled child trafficking. And the intended endgame would end all protection for the children being trafficked across the border.
The Flores Settlement was a sweetheart deal with enough loopholes to drive a truck full of migrants through. And the left has spent decades driving trucks through those loopholes. Its latest campaign is only the culmination of decades of twisting border security into insecurity and child protection into abuse.
As the decades roll on, as the original Jenny grows old and retires, the Flores lawsuits will keep on coming. And children will continue to be detained and adults arrested until the border is secured.
President Trump’s signature issue was securing the border with a wall. That’s still the only answer.
Only a wall can end the tide of illegal migrants, the flow of drugs and of human cargo. Only a wall can shut down the detention centers, for adults and children. And only a wall can keep us safe and free.