Cases now have an average waiting period of almost two years before reaching an immigration court judge, leaving people in limbo. The backlog forces the administration to choose between releasing families into the United States or detaining them for extended periods of time. And that’s bad for border security. If potential immigrants believe the risk of immediate deportation is low, more will try to cross illegally.

The answer is not simply to speed things up. Pushing the system to work faster could lead to charges that it’s not fair to those with valid asylum claims, or that due process is being denied — both of which undermine public confidence. It’s no wonder that hard-line policies like separating or detaining families begin to seem like attractive, if morally questionable, ways to secure the border.