17 May Separating Families – The United States New Immigration Policy
It’s official. The United States is now criminalizing illegal border crossing and separating parents from their children.
According to immigration lawyers and advocates who work along the southern border, family separations began when Trump took office in 2017. The goal was to deter people in Central America from coming to the U.S. seeking asylum. Initially the plan worked. But as conditions in Central America have become more violent, the people have become more desperate.
The last two months have seen an increase in asylum seekers which enraged the President who was touting his triumph at keeping the border tight. In response to the uptick in asylum seekers, the administration significantly ramped up criminal prosecutions and thus family separations.
The Trump administration has acknowledged that roughly 700 children have been removed from their parents’ custody since October 1st, 2017. But that number appears to be on the rise.
The policy on criminal prosecutions became official on Monday, May 14th, 2018 when Attorney General Jeff Sessions said, “If you cross the Southwest border unlawfully, then we will prosecute you. It’s that simple. If you’re smuggling a child, then we’re going to prosecute you, and that child will be separated from you. If you don’t want your child separated, then don’t bring them across the border illegally.”
To date and with few exceptions, the United States has historically treated immigration violations as a civil infraction. According to Mr. Sessions statement, Monday marks the turning point for this administration. They will now begin to charge illegal border crossings as a criminal infraction. And because children cannot enter the criminal justice system, they are being separated from their parents.
Those who have witnessed the separations say it’s heartbreaking. The children are terrified. Most can’t understand what is happening other than the act of being physically removed from their parent’s arms while screaming and crying out for them.
The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Child Welfare League of America have strongly advised homeland security not to break up families. Saying, “Separation from family leaves children more vulnerable to exploitation and abuse, no matter what the care setting. In addition, traumatic separation from parents creates toxic stress in children and adolescents that can profoundly impact their development. They develop anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as exhibit behavioral problems and have poor educational outcomes.”
The Trump administration’s policy changes aren’t just affecting current border crossers. There has been an upsurge of fear in those who are in the country legally that their legal status will be questioned or even revoked. Children that are legal U.S. Citizens by birth with parents who are legal because of visas are feeling the pressure as well.
Two recent studies completed by George Washington University and UCLA show that the fear of family separation in these communities is intense. It’s an emotional load to bear and they aren’t equipped to handle it. Many families are even putting off daily activities like grocery shopping or doctor visits for fear that they will be picked up by ICE agents and separated from their children.
To date the best offensive against such actions is to be well informed and in communication with legal counsel and advocacy groups. Put a plan together with your family. If A happens we do B- which should include contacting your attorney and getting children into the safe harbor of family and friends. And if you have questions about your immigration status, feel free to call our offices at (248) 735-8800 or (312) 546-5116.
Sources: https://www.jahonline.org/article/S1054-139X(18)30054-5/fulltext https://www.civilrightsproject.ucla.edu/research/k-12-education/integration-and-diversity/u.s.-immigration-enforcement-policy-and-its-impact-on-teaching-and-learning-in-the-nations-schools https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/12/us/immigrants-family-separation.html https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/legal/visa-law0/visa-policy-updates.html https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/20/us/immigrant-children-separation-ice.html https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/3/5/17071648/impact-trump-immigration-policy-children