We can’t deport them against their will — federal law on child trafficking requires that they stay here in the care of HHS and eventually receive a hearing if they’re from a non-contiguous country — but can’t we deport them with their cooperation? No way, say amnesty fans. You can’t get legal consent from a minor for something like that; they’re bound to feel coerced and “volunteer” for removal even if they don’t want to go. A hearing is the only way. And if most of them, after being released, decide to vanish into the United States and never show up for that hearing, hey. Just another example of “due process” being used to subvert the legal process entirely.

The punchline here is that the reason the White House and people like John McCain are suddenly eager to stop this flow of migrants from Central America, even if it means getting kids to “volunteer” to go home, is because it’s screwing up their plans for a much bigger amnesty. They’ve spent 18 months pounding the table for comprehensive immigration reform and now the project is at risk thanks to this ongoing example at the border of just how FUBAR U.S. enforcement is. You would think immigration activists would be smart enough to see sending the kids home as the strategic retreat by their allies that it is, in service to winning the wider war. Nope.

The White House plans to send a separate request to Congress to allow DHS to offer voluntary removal to all unaccompanied children who are picked up at the border, Johnson said. Right now, the border patrol can only offer that option to children who cross the border from Mexico. The officials offer those children the opportunity to go home safely and be delivered into the custody of Mexican child welfare officials without any kind of deportation punishment. Advocates say the interviews are confusing and intimidating for a child…

Indeed, the current trafficking law requires that the Department of Health and Human Services take care of the undocumented children who cross the border if they are not from Mexico. (The exception in the trafficking law also applies to Canada, but few people are apprehended on the Northern border.) The children are provided with medical care, mental health screenings, and education. They are also given some legal services, although not actual representation.

Issa says that amounts to free babysitting for people who crossed the border illegally. It’s hard to argue with him. The testimony of HHS officials this week on Capitol Hill describing the care of the children in their country can almost be read like an advertisement for crossing the border. “The children in our shelters receive physical, mental, dental, education, and physical activities,” said Mark Greenberg, Acting Assistant Secretary for Children and Families at HHS at a Wednesday hearing in the Senate Homeland Security Committee.

The American Immigration Lawyers Association is unhappy with “voluntary deportation,” notes National Journal, and some Democrats in Congress might be ready to side with them and force a fight over security funding because of it. Either we shift back to summary deportation, though, whether voluntary or compulsory (if Congress has the numbers to amend the statute), or we keep the current system in which HHS ends up handing kids off to relatives in the U.S. who are themselves illegal, never to be seen again. According to the WSJ, more than 47,000 children were apprehended at the border last year. Many of them were from Mexico and thus some were summarily deported, but it’s hard to know how many. Of the number who weren’t immediately sent back, just 3,500+ received formal orders of deportation — and of that number, just 1,600 or so were returned, meaning that more than half of the kids who actually did end up in the system also ended up evading it in the end.

Right now, there are nearly 42,000 — no typo — cases pending, with backlogs of two or three years not uncommon. So, clearly, what we need is an even slower system involving even more process-evading process:

[M]ore than half of all minors who go through immigration court proceedings in the U.S. do so without the guidance of an attorney. That’s why the American Immigration Council, along with the American Civil Liberties Union, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, Public Counsel and K&L Gates LLP, have filed a class-action lawsuit against the United States, arguing that the government should be required to provide legal representation to children during immigration court proceedings

The current flow of undocumented minors, many from Central America, over the Mexican border into Texas—about 90,000 are expected to arrive this year in all—will eventually flood the already clogged immigration courts. Immigration proceedings are considered a civil matter, rather than a criminal one under U.S. law and as a result, defendants—regardless of age—are not required by law to be provided with counsel if they cannot afford a lawyer on their own. The groups suing the government want to make sure that all of these kids will have access to legal representation when their day in immigration court comes.

“A fair hearing means having an opportunity to be heard and they can’t have a meaningful hearing without a legal representative,” said Beth Werlin, the American Immigration Council’s deputy legal director.

Imagine the backlog when every young illegal not only gets an asylum hearing but has an experienced lawyer working procedural magic to delay those hearings as long as possible. Could the backlog reach 10 years? At that point you might as well skip the hearings altogether and amnestize the kids as they enter the country, as there’ll be virtually no way to find them and enforce the orders by the time they’re issued. Which, again, is the desired outcome. Grassroots righties like to accuse lefties of following the Cloward-Piven strategy in all manner of things, but it really is apt here. The goal is to undermine border enforcement as much as possible. That means is overloading that system, replete with new legal procedures, to the point where it can’t cope so that a more left-wing system replaces it. It’s working.

Serious question: If we’re hot to import endless thousands of children from violent countries, why aren’t Iraqi and Afghan children getting first dibs? Libertarians argue that America can’t be a global policeman, and the worse Iraq gets these days, the more persuasive that argument seems. We’re not here to solve the world’s problems, they say. Yet some of them (not the Pauls, it should be said) also basically argue that America should be the world’s nursemaid for anyone who actually makes it across the border. When it comes to mass illegal immigration from war- or gang-torn countries, evidently we are here to solve the world’s problems. In that case, why is surviving a journey through Mexico and into Texas the moral touchstone for who should be allowed admittance? If we’re going to start amnestizing kids, we should probably start with kids whom we already have a direct relationship with after 10 years of war and reconstruction. But since Iraqis and Afghans don’t have as easy a route into Arizona as Hondurans and Guatemalans, they’re stuck dealing with ISIS and the Taliban while Central Americans enjoy HHS’s babysitting service. I don’t get it.