Law enforcement separates families every day, when parents break laws. We all find that regrettable, but not objectionable - except when it comes to people violating our immigration laws. In the case of immigration law violators, it is also entirely avoidable.
Gaping loopholes in our laws that Congress knows about but refuses to fix, have left the administration with two bad choices. Either they allow people to exploit these openings in order to gain entry to the United States, or they detain adults and children separately.
The badly written Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) prevents the expedited removal of minors (other than Mexican or Canadian nationals) even if they are not being trafficked.
A judicial ruling agreed to by the Obama administration, the Flores Settlement, prevents families with children from being detained for more than 20 days.
Keeping these families together means that they will all be released within three weeks and likely will never be seen again. The adults can be detained for a longer period while their claims to enter the United States can be evaluated, but that requires that they be held apart from their minor children.
One other tragic byproduct of Congress's inaction is that the TVPRA, as written, actually facilitates human trafficking. There have been numerous documented cases of human traffickers posing as the parents of the minors they are exploiting.
Closing these loopholes would dramatically reduce the need to detain adults and minors separately. Entire families could be detained together while their claims to enter the United States are assessed (which generally take more than 20 days) and depending on the outcome they would all be admitted or removed as a unit.
Dan Stein is the president of the Federation of Americans for Immigration Reform.