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Immigrants line up in the dining hall in July at the U.S. government's newest holding center for migrant children in Carrizo Springs, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

If the issue weren't so serious, the politics of the left on illegal immigration could make one laugh aloud.

The latest came Wednesday after the Trump administration gave the left what it has been begging for — the ability to keep illegal immigrant parents and children together, despite rules that predated the administration that said they should be separated.

OK, the administration said, we'll keep them together. That'll speed up hearings about their improper presence in the U.S. — or their asylum claims (of which fewer than one-fifth were granted during a 10-city pilot program over the past year) — and quicken their potential deportation should their hearing not go their way.

Democrats, only since Trump has been in office, have taken exception to separating illegal immigrant children from families, as has been the law. It's cruel, it's inhumane, it's wrong, they said.

But a Bill Clinton-era court agreement, the 1997 Flores settlement, laid out how illegal immigrant children were to be treated while in custody. And a Barack Obama-era court ruling in 2015 said children could only be held for 20 days, which is nowhere near quick enough for hearings to be held for their parents, who are among thousands of illegal immigrants awaiting hearings.

So what frequently happened was the Department of Homeland Security had to process the families and let them go, whereupon they would disappear into the U.S. and never return for their status hearing (often called "catch and release"). The court ruling was one of the keys to the resurgent flood of immigrants, who now could use their children — and ones they claimed as their children — as pawns for their release into the U.S.

Once the Trump administration announced the policy to change the Flores rules (but keep its protections), though, Democrats stood naked in their hypocrisy when they immediately opposed it.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, said the administration "is seeking to codify child abuse, plain and simple." U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, said the policy was "punishing vulnerable families."

You see, Democrats never cared about the children being together with their parents. They just wanted them all released — into the U.S., far from the border, on their way to becoming dependents the party could use to its advantage.

Now, individuals, faith-based organizations and social service agencies who have decried the separation of children from parents at the border should get behind the administration's new regulation, or become complicit in the hypocrisy that surrounds the issue.

The regulation, upon posting, will take effect in 60 days if not struck down by a court.

"The new rule will protect children by reducing incentives for adults, including human smugglers, to exploit minors in the dangerous journey to our border," Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan said.

It also would establish family residential facilities with dining, medical and educational centers that he described as "campus-like." Imagine, a humanitarian solution — or stopgap — to a very vexing problem.

Unlike Democrats, the administration is trying to do something about the situation. In fiscal 2019, since October, 475,000 family units have tried to enter the country, more than three times as many as in any previous full year in just 10 months.

McAleenan, in explaining the new regulation, described a recent conversation with a Guatamalan father who "basically said everybody knows that bringing a child is a passport for migration and release into the U.S."

That's what the 2015 court ruling did. It began with 68,000 family units in fiscal 2014, but once the word was out the flood was unstoppable.

"With the Flores fix today," said Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of the Citizenship and Immigration Services, "something Congress should have done a long time ago, we're looking forward to seeing less and less family units coming across the border."

If Democrats had any interest in solving the immigration crisis, short of the open borders so many of them want, they would embrace the administration's policy as a starting point. They would then seek to work together with President Donald Trump and Republicans to see what could be accomplished about young illegal immigrants already here, all illegal immigrants in the U.S., and those who seek to come today and in the future.

Decrying the very policy they said they wanted, and refusing to work on any type of compromise legislation, only shows them to be demagogues and does not give the American people any confidence in their ability to share leadership of the country.

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