The policy of the Trump administration to execute the zero tolerance policy for illegal U.S. border crossing leads to family separation for thousands of people trying to enter the United States. The zero tolerance policy was announced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions on May 7.
All people caught crossing the borders were referred to the U.S. Department of Justice. They would be prosecuted for illegal entry.
Most of the people trying to cross the border are families with children. Because the adults are to be sent to federal courts, the parents were separated from their children, who were categorized as unaccompanied minors. These children were sent to foster care or government custodies. The parents were automatically categorized as criminals and were sent to prison.
Trump administration critics called the separation of families an atrocity that does not deserve forgiveness. Several articles came out showing inconsolable children crying for their parents until they fell asleep. There was even a man from Honduras who killed himself while in detention because his child was taken away.
From May 5 to early June more than 2,000 migrant children were separated from their adult companions. Today, U.S. authorities are worried about where to place these 2,300 children.
Not only people from the United States are joining the protests about the family separation. Some leaders of other nations also expressed their opinion about the immigration policy of the Trump administration. They are now feeling the mounting pressure and lawmakers are proposing several ideas to stop the crisis, as advocates call for protests nationwide at the end of this month.
On June 20, President Trump rescinded the zero tolerance policy by signing an executive order. The administration has now ordered not to separate the children from their parents. Instead they are to be kept together inside detention centers while their cases of illegal entry are being processed. So now illegal immigrants are being detained as families.
What happened before
Advocates of immigration were having a difficult time to help over 1,600 children who were separated from their adult companions earlier. However, President Trump was adamant about not backing down. He even called the illegal immigrants as gang members and declaring that they are not humans. Last month he called the illegal immigrants animals.
Photos and videos of the detention centers that resembled cages where children who were taken away from their parents surfaced everywhere.
It was clarified that the comments of the President were aimed at the violent members of the MS-gang. President Trump strongly regretted the idea that what he said encompassed all the immigrants coming to the U.S. Still, the criticisms kept on piling up regarding the harsh immigration policies. Attorneys and immigration advocates are left wondering what other ideas the Trump administration has up their sleeves to stop immigrants from entering the U.S. illegally.
The family separation issue according to advocates had been going on for months prior to its adoption as a policy.
Why the family separation was carried out
The zero tolerance policy of the incumbent administration was announced in April. This means that people crossing the U.S. border illegally are candidates for prosecution. The policy applies to some asylum seekers as well. Since children should not be place in adult detention centers, they have to be taken away from their families.
The new policy of Mr. Trump states that all the migrants who illegally cross the border including asylum seekers are to be criminally prosecuted.
Because the law states that children should not be detained in a federal jail, they have to be separated from their families and put under the Office of Refugee Resettlement’s care.
Advocates of immigration declared that the separation of families had been going on since the middle of 2017.
Various welfare ground including the United Nations and the American Academy of Pediatrics do not agree with the practice of family separation.
Where are the children?
The children, who are called ”unaccompanied alien children,” are supposed to undergo processing so they can enter the system. This practice is for those who arrived at the border voluntarily. Alien children who are unaccompanied are placed under the care of the U.S. Health Department 72 hours after U.S. border agents apprehended them. Some of these unaccompanied children are very young, with some only months old.
The children remain in the shelters for several weeks or months. In the meantime, the government searches for sponsors or family friends, relatives and parents within the United States so they be can be placed with them. They have to remain in their care until their immigration cases are resolved. The influx of new children coming unaccompanied has put too much strain on the system.
Possibility of reunion with parents
The administration has no clear system available to enable the reunion of the children with their parents, according to immigration attorneys and advocacy groups. Children’s advocates said they do not have means to find the parents. In case the parents were deported, there is no clean means for the advocates to make sure that the children are with them.
During the time of former President Obama’s administration, an inflow of unaccompanied children and families arrived at the U.S. border after they fled Central America. That was in 2014 and the administration detained those illegal arrivals.
The Obama administration was criticized harshly for that. In 2015 a U.S. federal court prevented the government from detaining the immigrants for months sans explanation. Thus the administration released them while immigrants waited for their court hearing. However, many families failed to show up in court. This led theTrump administration to express strong disapproval to what it termed as ”catch and release” program of the Obama administration.
Situation at the children holding facilities
Some reporters were allowed to tour the holding facilities for children in Texas. They described that the facilities looked like cages with floors of concrete. In one such facility, a teenager had to teach other older children on how to change the diaper of younger children. The teenager even had to take care of a child she does not know.
Although books and toys are available to the children, they were showing signs of stress, according to the president of American Academy of Pediatrics, Colleen Kraft.
In her report after her visit to a border facility in Texas, she said that family separation, which is a very stressful experience for someone young, could affect the children’s health for a long time.
Will there be a change in the immigration policy?
President Trump blames the Democrats falsely and repeatedly for the practice despite his administration officials advocating the program.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that the program is meant to dissuade migrants from illegally trying to cross the border. Chief of Staff John Kelly even called it a deterrence game.
Right now the Trump administration is facing rising pressure from Democrat and Republican lawmakers along with immigration advocates, religious leaders and human rights groups to stop the family separations.
An attorney in Washington State said that the United States has a moral obligation to take in refugees, which is covered by international law. She added that these illegal immigrants are refugees who are fleeing the atrocities happening in Central America.
Immigration officials, according to the attorney, told the children that they could be reunited with their families in a few minutes when they were first separated from their adult relatives.
As late as Monday morning, June 18, President Trump and his officials were still adamant. The President stated that the country is not a camp for migrants and it would not be turned into a holding facility for refugees.
Immigration has been a sour issue with the U.S. President. It was exacerbated by the fact that Congress has not allowed the President to have funds to build his election campaign-promised border walls between U.S. and Mexico.
Thus the administration approached the issue in another way, by building invisible walls through several policies to deter all forms of immigration. The family separations are the most dramatic among the President’s immigration policies, an action that former first lady Barbara Bush called immoral and cruel.
The issuance of the executive order on June 20 is the biggest policy reversal done by President Trump since he assumed office at the White House in 2017.
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