The Immigration Crisis: An Analysis on Trump’s Decision To Separate Immigrant Kids From Their Parents

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Roughly 150 Central American migrants seeking asylum in the United States arrived at the border last week, fleeing violence, poverty and volatile governments in their home countries. GUILLERMO ARIAS/AFP/Getty Images

In April, Attorney General, Jeff Sessions announced that the U.S will be taking a stricter stance on immigration. The U.S will be creating a zero tolerance policy for crossing the border illegally, this includes having to separate children from their parents at the border when an adult is crossing with a child. Sessions commented, “We are dealing with a massive influx of illegal aliens across our Southwest Border. But we’re not going to stand for this.” Sessions and Trump claim that there has been an escalation in illegal crossings by immigrants at the border, and that this is due to lack of a wall and lack of laws. They believe that this new policy is going to send a message to people and warn them about the consequences of crossing the border illegally, but, what really is this zero tolerance policy? The zero tolerance policy is not anything new, it actually isn’t even a law, rather it is was a memo for federal prosecutors from the Trump Administration demanding that all those who cross illegally be prosecuted. The laws included in the “zero tolerance policy” include the same laws that were present in the Obama era and before that. Law includes that prosecution will occur when improper entry into the U.S occurs by alien, or illegal immigrant. If a child is present while parent(s) are crossing the border illegally, child will be separated from parent and will be in custody of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Since 1997 this phenomenon of separation of child and parent after illegally crossing the border has been present. The law has stated that if illegal immigrants come with children, or accompanied minors, (child that is <18 years of age), the minor cannot be in the jail with their parent(s), instead the Office of Refugee and Resettlement in the Department of Health and Human Services takes custody of the child and if after 5 days there is no reunification with parents, HHS, under law, has to put the child in a licensed program, this includes a non-secure facility that is safe and sanitary and has specific standards, standards include provided food, clothing, grooming needs, medical and dental car, individualized needs assessments, educational services, creations and leisure time, counseling, access to religious services, contact with family members and a reasonable right to privacy. This can also include a foster home. So, what is the difference now and why the outrage now? The difference is the approach.

Despite the law being the same, the approach to how this law is being followed and implemented is drastically different. Unfortunately, there is always some bending to the laws, and in most case it has to do with meaning of words of the law. In this case, Trump is creating his own definition for sanitary, safe and licensed. For him sanitary and safe includes children sleeping on cold floors while in a cage, and removing the children from their parents as ICE does a surprise visit to the home, or pulls over their parents while headed back home. Trump claims this is due to the influx of illegal immigrants coming into the U.S but, this is not the first time an influx of illegal immigrants crossing the border occurs. This occurred in 2014, and the same process happened. When illegal immigrants were detained the process of prosecution started and the child, being a minor, either stayed with a family member if there was any or HHS took custody of child and put them in a non-secure facility, this could include a family detention facility or a foster home. Due to the influx though, there was not enough family detention facilities or personnel, so many illegal immigrants were not prosecuted. This is exactly what is occurring now.

Unfortunately, no matter how many family detention facilities we have, how many foster families we have, or personnel, quantity never beats quality, and that is what Trump needs to focus on if he truly cares about the children. The separation is not the inhumane act, the sickening act is the way the gov’t is treating children, leaving them in cages, scarce food, sleeping on cold floors. Foster family requirements need to improve as well, there should be more than just put locks on your cabinets and caps on your electric cords, there needs to be psychological testing, drug checks, background checks etc. I have gone into to many homes where the foster child is with a family who does heroin or cocaine. That needs to change. We need to focus on education for this population, mental health, physical health etc. While the U.S. may not be able to keep the child with their parents, the U.S can improve their quality of life. And for Trump, remember you can only bend the law so far.

Resources/Citations:

https://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/opinions/2016/07/06/15-56434.pdf

https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/USCODE-2011-title8/pdf/USCODE-2011-title8-chap12-subchapII-partVIII-sec1325.pdf

https://www.justice.gov/opa/press-release/file/1049751/download

https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/attorney-general-announces-zero-tolerance-policy-criminal-illegal-entry

Contributor writer for Medium and former contributor writer for HuffPost. I focus on disparities in education and medicine. #Latina #Hispana #Medicine

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