The flood of some 50,000 unaccompanied minors, mostly from Central America, has sparked angry protests in several U.S. locations as officials scrambled to find temporary facilities to house them. But one group of women and children were flown back to Honduras this week, while another were deported to Guatemala. The effort was meant to signal to those families sending their children north that they will not be allowed to stay. Human traffickers, who receive upwards of $5000 for transporting a child, have been telling gullible and desperate families that unaccompanied minors will be allowed to stay in the U.S. permanently once they cross the border. But the arrival of so many youngsters has caused a backlash that jeopardizes chances for any meaningful immigration reform before the mid-term elections.

Immigrant advocacy groups are criticizing the administration for pushing deportations–but until the kids stop coming, Congress will have no appetite for dealing with the larger issue of what to do with the 11 million undocumented immigrants already here, much less changing U.S. law to admit more immigrants legally.