Dealing With The Young Immigrants

What to do about children who accompany parents crossing the border illegally into the United States is a heart-wrenching problem — and not as simple as one might wish.

As many as 500 children have been separated from their mothers and/or fathers after their parents brought them across the border from Mexico, according to some estimates.

At first glance, that seems cruel in the extreme. But think about it: Illegal immigrants are supposed to be prosecuted. Do we send their children to jail with them, or try to find other homes for the youngsters?

Contrary to some reports, there is no policy requiring that all children coming across the border are to be taken from their parents. But even one taken forcibly and unnecessarily is too many.

“We don’t want kids to be separated from their parents,” House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan said last week.

Of course not. But what can be done?

One obvious possibility is housing families together, even if criminal charges may be filed, until separation is no longer avoidable.

Congress may be on the verge of considering new immigration legislation. Addressing the problem of child immigrants needs to be part of that — and, we would add, a major part of the thinking of executive branch officials.

Every separation may not be preventable. But Americans are not the sort of people to let the problem go unaddressed.