Credit: George Danby

Democrats have a solution for illegal immigration: Abolish ICE. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wisconsin, is drafting legislation to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and five Democrats are joining him. Looking at the recent protest signs in Portland, this idea is taking off. Well, it’s a novel idea. No police, no lawbreakers. No Border Patrol. No border.

So, how did we get caught between separating children from their parents and abolishing ICE? As a child therapist, I’m keenly aware of the trauma that’s caused when children are separated from their parents. And I don’t support it.

But since the 1990s, between 6,000 and 10,000 migrants, including children, have died miserable deaths along our southern border. Millions of families have been separated as the parents came north to get better paid jobs and provide wealthy Americans with an abundant stream of cheap labor as nannies, landscapers, house cleaners and so on. The negative impact on children and family structure of migrating providers is well documented by academics, and many children have been abandoned entirely by fathers who started new families in America.

Prior to President Barack Obama’s “catch and release” policies, 90 percent of illegal migrants were single men, who, if caught, faced incarceration until their cases were heard. But the number of children brought to the border exploded when people realized that with a child they would be released into the interior with an appointment for a future hearing, and many never showed up. In addition, these policies created business opportunities for drug gangs who moved into smuggling children and using children to carry drugs.

[Opinion: Abolishing ICE is not a serious policy proposal]

So, where was public shock and moral outrage on behalf of children all these years?

To his credit, Jeh Johnson, who served as Obama’s second secretary of Homeland Security, said June 24 on Fox News: “We can’t have catch and release, and in my three years, we deported and repatriated more than a million people.”

Immigrant advocates and mainstream media tell us that migrants are coming north because of violence in their countries. And it’s true that Honduras has a high murder rate, which is rapidly declining. But if safety were the primary issue, then migrants could obtain asylum in Mexico, and they wouldn’t fail to show up for their immigration court hearings, which would allow them to make their asylum case in American courts.

A recent U.N. report indicates that the overwhelming majority of migrants are not driven north by fears of violence, but for economic opportunity. News coverage, though, has latched on to the “desperately fleeing violence” narrative, which dovetails nicely with the “Trump is Hitler” meme and open-border enthusiasm.

Make no mistake, there are legitimate asylum claims, but we’re also dealing with potentially massive fraud, as migrants are tutored in how to game the system.

We could largely eliminate those who are simply looking for a better paid job by mandating all employers use the electronic system for verifying work authorization. This legislation would end the jobs magnet and discourage many parents from risking their children’s lives, as well as their own. But Congress won’t pass it.

Although the recently defeated Republican immigration bill — HR 4760 — included E-verify, an end to chain migration, reducing legal numbers and legalization without citizenship for DACA recipients, House Democrats unanimously voted against it. How come? Media commentators repeatedly labeled it and its provisions as “hardline,” “draconian,” “right wing,” “toxic,” “poison pill,” and supporters were called “ immigration hawks.” How could any self-respecting Democrat vote for a bill with those labels? But were those labels fair?

[Opinion: Americans like immigrants but want our immigration laws respected]

An ABC/Washington Post poll indicates that 79 percent of Americans want E-verify and 86 percent want legalization and renewable work permits for “Dreamers,” while a Harvard/Harris poll indicates that 79 percent favor merit-based over family-based immigration. Almost exactly the Republican bill!

Democrats were willing to defeat legalization for DACA recipients rather than support a Republican bill that included multiple highly popular reforms. And DACA youth were thrown under the bus.

And so we’re left with President Donald Trump’s bone-headed efforts to discourage illegal migration by separating parents and children. The optics are terrible for Trump, and Democrats love it. But let’s not mistake their outrage for anything resembling a true compassion for children or DACA youth. Democrats want the soap opera to continue.

Jonette Christian of Holden is a founder of Mainers for Sensible Immigration Policy. She can be reached at

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