Child separation was bad policy but ultimately a red herring. It’s always been about open borders.

How soft do you have to be on immigration to piss off Marco Rubio? Now we know:

Catch-and-release, now and forever. For background on the legal nuts and bolts here, I’d direct you to — wait for it — Vox. (Really. Their immigration reporter, Dara Lind, knows her stuff.) Trump’s caught in a bind on detaining families of illegals: Because of the Ninth Circuit’s ruling in Flores v. Reno and subsequent cases, the feds can hold adults indefinitely but children must be transferred out of DHS custody within 20 days. If you insist on keeping families together then the whole unit needs to go free, just like Kamala Harris wants. Catch-and-release. By separating children from parents, Trump could keep both groups detained — parents stay with law enforcement, kids head over to shelters provided by HHS. But now that the separation policy has been undone via executive order, if POTUS insists on keeping families together then, well…

“The extent permitted by law” is Flores. In other words, DHS can hold families for 20 days. Then they’re out, according to Trump’s own order. (Gabe Malor agrees with French’s reading.) The obvious solution is to override Flores. Congress could pass a law extending the time for family detention or DHS could issue new regulations or, of course, the Ninth Circuit could overrule Flores itself. The only viable option of those three, it seems, are new DHS regulations — but that’ll take time, as Lind notes, and they’ll be attacked ferociously in court. How hard would it be for amnesty fans to find a federal judge willing to rule that family detention for, say, three months is a violation of due process?

Besides, this issue is a political disaster for the GOP — or is it? Steve Kornacki notes a new poll from YouGov confirming what a bunch of other surveys over the last few days have showed, namely, that most Americans hate child separation. Here it polls at a 29/54 clip, with Democrats overwhelmingly opposed at 10/78 and Republicans only mildly in favor at 56/31. Normally when a Trump policy is under withering media fire the party would rally to POTUS. Not this time.

But wait. Kornacki notes that the next question in the poll asks which big-picture approach to illegals the public prefers. Child separation is bad, but what about other varieties of “zero tolerance”? (“Slightly less than zero tolerance,” we’ll call it, in honor of Trump’s new executive order.) Behold:

Just 19 percent favor the Kamala Harris open-borders catch-and-release approach. Even among Democrats it’s a minority position. The most popular option by far is indefinite family detention, which Democrats are gearing up to declare the New Nazism. And there’s fully 20 percent who prefer options more draconian than that, whether Trump’s child separation policy in which kids go to HHS shelters or an even harsher alternative in which they’re sent to juvenile detention. All told you’ve got 64 percent of the public in favor of indefinite family detention at a minimum. Remember that when the liberal messaging that only a monster would tolerate such a thing begins.

Exit question: Would the numbers in favor of child separation change if the public thought it was succeeding in deterring some illegal entries?