In April, Jeff Sessions, the Attorney General of the United States, announced a “zero-tolerance” policy for immigrant families. This meant that many migrant families were detained at the border, and the parents subsequently separated from their children. From April to June roughly 2,300 children were separated from their families and placed in detention centres. Though the administration has announced that around 500 children have been reunited with their families, many children – some as young as four – are still separated from their loved ones. The ‘zero-tolerance’ policy necessitates that all people illegally crossing the border to be criminally prosecuted. However, legally, their children must be kept in the least restrictive setting as possible and thus cannot follow their parents into jail.
On June 20, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that would allow parents and children caught crossing the border to be housed together, perhaps on military bases instead of separating them.
Why is this significant?
This policy is in line with the Trump administration’s strict stance against illegal immigration. The administration believes that the migrants are bringing with them drugs, crime and gang violence, and will also take away American jobs. However, the truth is many of them are fleeing from gang violence and poverty, after all, they come from some of the poorest and most dangerous countries in the world.
In the United States, the children face a different kind of horror. The detention centres they are processed in have “chain-link partitions” (metal fencing) and wire nets on top preventing people from climbing out. The children, some too young to take care of themselves, are given thin mattresses and flimsy foil thermal blankets. They stay in these centres for an average of 50 hours before being moved to migrant youth shelters that look better but still feel clinical and institutional (click here for photos).
One thing for certain though, is that people on both sides of the political spectrum can agree on how inhumane is it to separate children from their families and place them in detention centres.
(Featured photo taken from bbc.com)