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Separation of Families in the US: Immigration Debates

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Human Rights
Wordcount: 1673 words Published: 23rd Sep 2019

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To Separate or Not to Separate: That is The Question

 Immigration is a controversial topic in the United States. President Trump has often claimed the US has become overcrowded through the illegal entry by undocumented, dangerous immigrants (3). President Trump has ordered the United States and Mexico border to heighten security. Trump enforced the zero-tolerance policy that separated families at the border. This policy separated the families because the parents were taken into custody for questioning and the children were then put into detention centers. Children of the undocumented immigrants are suffering because of their parents legal status. The children can be separated from their parents without any explanation of when they will be reunited with their parents again. It is unethical for the United States Government to separate children of undocumented immigrants from their parents when the US has detained the immigrants at the border between America and Mexico. 

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The legal status of children of undocumented immigrants heavily depends on their parents and how they arrived in the United States. Their legal status depends on whether they were born in the United States following their parents arrival or if they immigrated when they were a child. Foreign-born children who arrive alone or with their parents are expected to submit to the same processes as other prospective adult immigrants (1). Recently, there has been several initiatives that have been proposed to help provide additional legal protections for the children that have entered the country illegally. Barack Obama, former United States President, signed the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals action (DACA) which allowed undocumented immigrants who entered the United States prior to their sixteenth birthday and before 2007 to receive a work permit and temporary deportation relief. This DACA action was ended in September 2017 by current president, Donald Trump (1). This slightly failed but Trump’s administration filed a request for an appeal and the court approved this but on different terms than what Trump initially sought after. The government would have to continue accepting renewal applications from individuals already enrolled in the program (1).

Immigrants face numerous challenges. Specifically in the United States, Mexican immigrants face the biggest onslaught of problems. Since the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, eleven million people are in the United States without documentation (2). By having many illegal aliens in the U.S. this obviously means leads to a portion of them being children. In April 2018, the US Department of Justice adopted a zero-tolerance immigration policy. Immigrants seized at the border and became subject to detention while the children that they traveled with entered the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (1).

Many citizens of the United States do believe that it is unethical for the United States Government to separate children of undocumented immigrants from their parents. Others disagree and believe that the undocumented immigrants should have some form of punishment or extradition for entering the country illegally. The zero-tolerance immigration policy quickly grew in criticism and protests started to increase in number from religious organizations, human rights groups, and concerned citizens. Trump announced the end of the zero-tolerance immigration policy in June 2018. After Trump announced the end of the zero-tolerance policy, government agencies were ordered to take steps toward reuniting the families by the federal courts. The children that were in the detention centers after being separated from their family members were discovered to have been staying in horrid conditions (1). Parents of these children reported that the children showed signs of mental distress and were also living in substandard living conditions. Physical and sexual abuse was also reported in the detention centers. Psychologists believe that the effects of childhood separation can be long-lasting causing emotional and cognitive problems later down the line in life (1). Although the federal courts ordered government agencies to help reunite families, not all children were immediately united with their parents. The deadline that was enforced for the reunification of families was July 26th, 2018. In August 2018, Senator Chuck Grassley reported that 711 children remained in government custody (1). 431 of the 711 children were not able to be reunited with their families because their parents already have been deported to their home country. All of this has led to an extensive amount of controversy on whether or not children of undocumented immigrants should be granted legal status or not.

 The Times Editorial Board believes that Trump finally came to his senses and brought the horrid practice of separating children from their immigrant parents who illegally enter the United States to an end. Trump’s solution of detaining entire families together while the parents face misdemeanor charges of illegal entry is not a good idea. Innocent children do not belong in jails or detention centers. The Times Editorial Board thinks that the better solution is to stop the over-reliance on incarceration (4). The Board believes that unless the parents are a big threat to the U.S., then they should be released with their children. An idea that the Board came up with is to ensure that the undocumented immigrants will show up to their court dates with the use of ankle bracelet monitoring (4).

 The New York Times made the transcript of Kirstjen Nielsen addressing family separation at the Border available in June 2018. Kirstjen Nielsen is the United States Secretary for Homeland Security. The transcript shows Nielsen’s and Trump’s administrations viewpoint on the Border. Reporters asked Nielsen numerous questions regarding the zero-tolerance immigration policy. Nielsen says “First, this administration did not create a policy of separating families at the border. We have a statutory responsibility that we take seriously to protect alien children from human smuggling, trafficking and other criminal actions while enforcing our immigration laws” (3). She is justifying why the children are being separated from their families and is all for the separating. Trump’s administration believes this is protecting the children. They are separating the children until they attain the information on whether or not the parents are innocent. Nielsen also states that “… parents who entered illegally, are by definition, criminals..  Entering the country illegally is a crime per Congress” (3). Children should not be kept with their parents if they are criminals but should not be separated from their family if the parents have not done anything wrong. A reporter asked Nielsen “How is this not child abuse?” and she responded that “it is enforcing the law” (3). It appears to be Trump’s administration cares more about the law then the well-being of the children.

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 The Times Editorial Board and The New York Times both exhibited opposing viewpoints to one another. The Times Editorial Board showed the viewpoint of it being unethical to separate the children from their parents. There is not any reason for the children to be separated from their parents and then be put into a detention center. American citizens were appalled when they found out what was occurring at the border.

 Children being separated from their undocumented parents at the United States and Mexico border is unethical. Children rely on their parents for safety and when they are separated from their parents, they lose their sense of feeling safe. President Trump and his administration have worked on terminating the zero-tolerance policy that separates the children from their parents at the border but it is still unclear if all of the children have been reunited with their parents. Trump’s administration is still detaining undocumented immigrants and their children but now in family detention centers (1). Children do not belong in detention centers. Undocumented immigrants and children are people too and should be treated as that.

Works Cited

  1. “Children of Undocumented Immigrants.” Opposing Viewpoints Online Collection, Gale, 2018. Opposing Viewpoints in Context, https://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/PC3010999243/OVIC?u=msmu_gvrl&sid=OVIC&xid=debd6c93. Accessed 3 Dec. 2018.
  2. Gardner, Cory. “It Is Unfair to Deny Innocent Immigrant Children Legal Status.” Illegal Immigration, edited by Noël Merino, Greenhaven Press, 2015. Opposing Viewpoints. Opposing Viewpoints in Context, https://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/EJ3010226408/OVIC?u=msmu_gvrl&sid=OVIC&xid=3e323847. Accessed 2 Dec. 2018. Originally published as “Addressing the Immigration Status of Illegal Immigrants Brought to the United States as Children,” 2013.
  3. “Kirstjen Nielsen Addresses Families Separation at Border: Full Transcript.” New York Times, 19 June 2018, p. NA(L). Global Issues in Context, https://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A543431850/OVIC?u=msmu_gvrl&sid=OVIC&xid=ae2b909a. Accessed 4 Dec. 2018.
  4. The Times Editorial Board. “Family Separation and Detention Are Bad Immigration Practices.” Opposing Viewpoints Online Collection, Gale, 2018. Opposing Viewpoints in Context, https://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/VQNYNO829834581/OVIC?u=msmu_gvrl&sid=OVIC&xid=d5d4ba4f. Accessed 3 Dec. 2018. Originally published as “Caging immigrant children alongside their parents isn’t much of a solution,” Los Angeles Times, 21 June 2018.


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