One should not come without the other.
The approximately 50,000 unaccompanied minors who have been caught this year illegally crossing the U.S. southern border are doing so for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the protection offered by a 2008 law.
Passed by unanimous consent in both chambers of Congress and signed by then-President George W. Bush, it was intended to address child victims of sex trafficking. The law laid out exactly how such children were to be treated, and how they might seek asylum. The process, which could include hearings before immigration courts, often takes years.
The full story behind the wave of kids seeking protection under a law enacted five years ago is a matter of debate, but surely violence and poverty in their home countries are contributing factors.
And we have no small amount of sympathy for them. Some of the money the president has requested will be used to ensure humane treatment of detainees, and we're glad to see that.
However, policymakers should not allow the improper use of the 2008 law to substitute for comprehensive immigration reform addressing these children and others who want to come here. This situation is a stark example as to why change is needed.
In the meantime, lawmakers should pass legislation streamlining the process of returning these children to their home countries as both a matter of principle and as a deterrent to others contemplating the dangerous journey.