Julian Castro, former mayor of San Antonio and former secretary of U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD), center rear, accompanies a young girl to deliver toys and letters to children inside a U.S. Border Patrol processing center in McAllen, Texas, U.S. (Photographer: Sergio Flores/Bloomberg)

Trump Must Stop the Cruelty at the Border

(The Bloomberg View) -- President Donald Trump’s policies at America’s southern border are cruel and unnecessary. This is widely recognized: Many Republicans are now among those objecting to the measures. For once, the president needs to heed the backlash and change course.

The numbers don’t justify the exceptionally harsh policy adopted in April. Contrary to what the president and his supporters claim, America’s borders are not being overrun. Apprehensions and denials of admission at the southwestern border so far this year are on par with the year-to-date average for 2012 to 2017. In the early 2000s, apprehensions were running about five times as high.

The new approach requires everyone caught crossing the border illegally to be detained and criminally prosecuted, rather than being promptly turned away. This, in turn, has disastrous consequences for families making the attempt. U.S. courts have ruled that apprehended children must be housed in the “least restrictive” setting or released as soon as possible to relatives or sponsors — so the new policy as good as mandates that children will be separated from their parents.

Far from regretting this, the administration appears to see it as a good thing, because it will deter others. Yet, at the same time, the president is blaming Democrats for the ensuing controversy, and has tried to use the plight of the policy’s young victims to get Congress to support a border wall and cuts in legal immigration.

The policy isn’t just wrong in itself; persisting with it will only make a sensible compromise on immigration harder to reach. U.S. immigration laws badly need reform, and the U.S. border should be made more secure. Both goals require legislation, and that demands cooperation.

The cause of better policy, and the reputation of the United States, aren’t served by willful cruelty directed at innocent children. This deplorable strategy should end immediately. Trump started it, and Trump can stop it.

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