Since the Trump administration rescinded its zero-tolerance policy for illegal border crossers and reverted to catch-and-release of illegal migrants accompanied by children this summer, there has been a new surge of family units entering the country illegally.

Who could have seen that coming?

Well, just about everybody. If people believe that arriving with children in tow is a free pass into the United States – pending a hearing on their claims to remain here that won’t happen for years if they even bother to show up – it is reasonable to expect that lots of people will take us up on the offer. Border Patrol agents along the Texas-Mexico border report a 50 percent increase in illegal crossings over the same time last year. The busiest sector of the border, near McAllen, Texas, reports 158,000 apprehensions so far this year.

According to agents stationed there, there are two kinds of illegal entrants: Families who want to be caught because they know they’ll be released, and drug-smugglers who try to avoid apprehension. While many families enter claims for political asylum, it is clear that in most cases they are economic migrants. A Fox News reporter, who rode along with Border Patrol agents, reports that when agents asked a Nicaraguan family why they were coming, the father responded, “Honestly? Work.”

The growing chaos at the border demands that Congress act to supersede the ruling of an activist judge that limits family detention to 20 days. As the administration is seeking, families should be detained as a unit until a determination can be made about whether or not they have a valid asylum claim to pursue.

Dan Stein is the president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform.

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