Separating Migrant Children from Their Families.

Public outcry continues to grow over the increase of children being separated from their immigrant parents entering the United States. Former LA mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Women’s march co-founder Linda Sarsour, House Democrat Nancy Pelosi and even First Lady Melania Trump and her husband Donald Trump are just a small number of public figures, human rights activists, and politicians that have been lambasting the growing number of incidents that have come to the public’s focus in recent weeks.

Since the Republican Administration enacted their new “zero tolerance” policy on illegal immigration this past May nearly 2, 000 children have been separated from their families upon entry, according to new figures from the Department of Homeland Security. [1] In accordance with the new policy: “The Attorney General Directed United States Attorneys on the Southwest Border to prosecute all amenable adults who illegally enter the country, including those accompanied by their children, for 8 U.S.C. § 1325(a), illegal entry” and that “Children whose parents are referred for prosecution will be placed with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). [2]

While illegal immigration is and has been a crime for years, past administrations have focused on lesser penalties such as deportation, charging only a small percentage of illegal immigrants with misdemeanors or, in the case of repeat offenders, felonies. [3] This new focus of stricter guidelines has sparked the increase of separation due to migrants being sent to federal jails while they wait to be presented in front of a federal judge for prosecution [3] and their children are sent to ORR facilities while they are detained. This is where these reports of families being separated comes from. The quickly growing problem with these new guidelines is that these agencies have been overloaded and underequipped for years, and as of June 7th of this year these facilities are 95 percent full, with 11 000 children being held. [3] These numbers along with the continuing emergence of firsthand accounts from those who have been separated from their families [4] and the moral arguments that arise from this treatment of children has fueled the public debate of whether it is right or not to enforce these policies in this manner.

When questioned about his thoughts on these separations, the President of the United States blamed the Democratic party and claimed they were responsible for the policy, stating: “The Democrats have to change their law — that’s their law.”. Kellyanne Conway also made similar remarks when questioned and put the onus on Democrats, saying if they are serious about overhauling the system, “They’ll come together again and try to close these loopholes and get real immigration reform”. When asked whether the president was willing to end the policy, she said: “The president is ready to get meaningful immigration reform across the board.” [5] These claims prove to be false due to this policy only coming in to effect via a deliberate policy shift by the Trump administration, and they have the power to unilaterally reverse it. [6] This certainly does not bode well for what this means in the coming weeks and creates an air of uncertainty regarding if or when change may be seen.

Sources:

[1] https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/children-separated-trump-immigration-policy-zero-tolerance-parents-border-a8401526.html

[2] https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/zero-tolerance-immigration-prosecutions-family-fact-sheet

[3] https://www.vox.com/2018/6/11/17443198/children-immigrant-families-separated-parents

[4] https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/they-just-took-them-frantic-parents-separated-from-their-kids-fill-courts-on-the-border/2018/06/09/e3f5170c-6aa9-11e8-bea7-c8eb28bc52b1_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.7f3b06375c1a

[5] http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/border-children-parents-separation-trump-1.4710055

[6] https://www.cnn.com/2018/06/15/politics/family-separation-democrats-trump/index.html

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