In reaction to the Trump Administration separating families at the border there has been a lot of responses, more often than not, questioning the morality and effectiveness of the practice. On June 26, 17 states (including California and New York) sued the Trump Administration in attempts to get them to reunite families. The court ruled children can only be separated if the adults accompanying them appear to pose an immediate threat to their safety and that if families are separated, adults may not be deported from the US without their children. However, the Trump Administration had successfully separated many families and scattered children across the country to foster care or shelters with no concrete plans of reunification and some had even failed to keep track of which children belonged to which parents. There are currently nearly 3,000 children in federal custody. Three-Thousand. And of the roughly 100 children under the age of 5, 19 of those parents have been deported, despite the court’s ruling.
Thus, the court ordered US immigration agents to stop separating families at the border and that all children under the age of 5 were supposed to be reunited with their families by July 10 and all children held in federal custody must be reunited by July 26. The Trump Administration has continued to bargain for more time due to challenges they claim they are facing with reuniting families. Some families are now thousands of miles apart, and with lost records of which child belongs to which parent, they are insisting on taking time-costly measures to ensure the correct familial relationships are identified. The government does not wish to delay reunifications, but they also want to make sure that in rushing to reunite families they do not accidentally release any child to adults that wish to exploit them and want to ensure their safety as well. The government also feared that with this court order to reunite families would come with mass deportations. So, to further ensure the safety of families upon reunification, on July 16, the court ordered the halt of deportation of families upon reunification. Deportations are to be stalled for at least a week to provide proper time for families to decide whether they would like to continue the process and stay in the US or leave. Though, despite Trump’s pleas for extra time, Judge Sabraw has demanded Trump move faster in reuniting children with their parents.
There are some complications and loopholes that leave some children potentially ineligible for release such as those who did not cross the border with their parents, parents who are serving criminal sentences, parents with a background of criminal histories, in particular child abuse and therefore deemed unfit. Lastly, some parents were simply deported, thus making the process even more difficult.
The Trump Administration’s separation of families has left a “gaping wound in our country” and can only be healed by morally and respectfully adhering to the nation’s commitment to individual rights. Trump is a firm believer in hard borders and remaining tough on immigration, claiming “without borders, you do not have a country.” His response to some earlier questioning about missing his first court appointed reunification deadline was to call for individuals to come to the US legally and there will be no issues. While on the surface, that may seem simple, there are specific cases such as asylum seekers and refugees who may not have as clear cut of a path to safety and thus must resort to unconventional migration.
In some cases, it is fair to confirm familial relationships so that unaccompanied children are not put in precarious situations, but there were steps that could and should have been taken early on to ensure familial connections were secure and confirmed. In the Executive Order issued June 26, there were no steps laid on for reuniting families, thus making it relatively easier for the Trump Administration to attempt to bargain. But, as there has been a universal plea for the end of separating families, it is crucial for society to continue pushing for social justice.
- The ACLU: a non-profit with a longstanding commitment to preserving and protecting the individual rights and liberties the Constitution and US laws guarantee all its citizens. You can also donate monthly to counter Trump’s attacks on people’s rights. Recently, the ACLU has filed a lawsuit challenging the separation of families at the border.
- The National Immigration Law Center: an organization that exclusively dedicates itself to defending and furthering the rights of low income immigrants and strives to educate decision makers on the impacts and effects of their policies on this overlooked part of the population.
- Kids in Need of Defense: an organization that promotes the protection of children as they migrate alone in search of safety and ensuring children’s rights are upheld and respected.
- Families Belong Together: an organization that has dedicated its mission to ensuring families are together, especially reuniting children with their families. This organization contributes all its efforts to counter Trump’s separation of children from their families.
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