In response to the media feeding frenzy over how illegal child immigrants are being managed by Homeland Security while it is complying with federal law, Democrat senators have cobbled together a bill that seems calculated to do little positive other than generate a attention. Our HotAir colleague Gabriel Malor, writing at The Federalist, analyzes the “Keeping Families Together Act.”

…The bill provides that “[a]n agent or officer of a designated agency shall be prohibited from removing a child from his or her parent or legal guardian at or near the port of entry or within 100 miles of the border of the United States” (with three exceptions to be discussed later). Four immediate warning signs in this provision should put the reader on notice that this bill is not what Democrats claim.

First, “designated agency” here is defined as the entirety of the federal departments of Homeland Security, Justice, and Health and Human Services…In other words, this bill is going to regulate conduct across a great many federal offices that have nothing to do with separating children from families arriving unlawfully in the United States.

Second, “agent or officer” is not defined by the legislation, except to say that it includes contractors. Federal law, however, already defines “officer” to include (with exceptions not relevant here) every federal employee appointed to the civil service by the head of an executive agency and ultimately overseen by the head of an executive agency.

Here again, this bill is not limited to controlling the behavior of the DHS, DOJ, or HHS officers involved in the border crisis. The proposed law would apply with equal force to, say, FBI agents (part of DOJ), Secret Service agents (part of DHS), and Centers for Disease Control officers (part of HHS) in the exercise of their everyday duties.

Third, “at or near the port of entry or within 100 miles of the border” does not meaningfully limit the geographic scope of this bill. That area includes almost the entirety of the geographical territory of the United States and the vast majority of people living in it. Two hundred million people live within 100 miles of the border. That’s roughly two-thirds of the U.S. population. Even more live near ports of entry, including in places far from the border crisis, like Salt Lake City, Utah (nearly 700 miles from the nearest border crossing), Tulsa, Oklahoma (more than 600 miles from the nearest border crossing), and Nashville, Tennessee (nearly 600 miles from the nearest border crossing). All major U.S. metropolitan areas fall within either 100 miles of the border or are near a port of entry or both.

Finally, “child” is defined in this legislation as any individual who has not reached 18 years old who has no permanent immigration status. This astonishing definition includes U.S. citizens under the age of 18. Citizen children by definition have no immigration status, permanent or otherwise. (Even if the Democrats belatedly amended this provision to restrict the definition to alien children without a permanent immigration status, that amended definition would still include non-migrant aliens, like tourist children, Deferred Action for Child Arrivals recipients under the age of 18, and children whose parents have had their immigration status revoked.)

The ridiculous consequences of passing the Democrats’ hastily written mess are easily demonstrated. Let’s say FBI agents hear about a drug trafficker and murderer in Buffalo, New York. The agents get a warrant to raid the drug trafficker’s house and arrest him. While they do so, they discover the drug trafficker’s minor daughter is home with him. Feinstein’s bill would prohibit the FBI agents, while arresting a drug trafficker, from separating this child from her father.

This is not a farfetched hypothetical. FBI agents are agents of DOJ (a designated agency) and Buffalo is within 100 miles of the border. So long as the daughter is either a U.S. citizen or an alien without permanent status, the FBI agents would be unable to proceed with normal law enforcement activities. The agents would be forced to choose between booking the drug trafficking murderer into jail with his daughter or not booking him into jail at all.

Note, however, there is no definition of family in the bill and there is no legal procedure specified for determining what a family consists of. This is not a trivial issue.

I think Tom Cotton hits the nail on the head:

The Democrats aren’t presenting a serious bill here. They are making a political statement which they know is going nowhere.

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