The Damage of Separating Families
“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” This is a quote by Desmond Tutu. By saying this, he isn’t saying to drop whatever you’re doing and become a human rights activist like him. He’s saying that we as a people should have an opinion regarding unfair conditions, and in this case illegal immigration, because if we don’t, it shows that we are siding with the “oppressors.” This statement made by him is very accurate when you really think about it. I relate this back to when I was younger and told that if you stand there and watch someone being bullied, you’re just as bad as the bully. When it comes to any injustices, you should always stand with the side that is being treated unjustly.
We need to realize the damage that separating families causes. This year alone, thousands of families have been separated from each other because of unfair immigration laws. Reading stories of separation can be very discouraging. A lot of times, families reunite only be separated again hours later. This was the case for two men who shared their story during an interview with immigration advocates.
Pablo and Antonio had been separated from their sons for a few months and along with other parents they were on a bus that was on the way to the ICE detention center where they were going to reunite with their children. Once they arrived at the detention center, all the parents were finally reunited and were able to hug, kiss, and talk to them. Something they haven’t been able to do in a long time. All the families were put back on the bus and drove away from the detention center.
Suddenly, the driver turned around and headed back to it. Waiting for them back at the detention centers were ICE officials with papers that had different options for the parents that asked, “I wish to be deported with my child” or “I wish for my child to stay in the U.S. for his or her own asylum case if I am deported”; or “I want to talk to a lawyer”. Pablo and Antonio said that the documents already had the first box checked saying, “Deport me with my child.” Many parents including Antonio and Pablo objected to this option because they didn’t want to run the risk of having their children go back to the same dangers that they came to America to escape from.
The people that objected to this pre-checked box were threatened by ICE saying that they would never see their children again. And because of not signing this unfair document, children were separated from their parents just hours after being reunited. Pablo, Antonio, and other parents that opted for this option didn’t even get a chance to say goodbye to their children and they haven’t even spoken to them since. Americans don’t understand the long-term psychological issues that children and their parents must go through when they are put through these circumstances. Maybe they don’t fully grasp the terrors they were escaping from when they came to this country in the first place. Maybe they know all of this but just don’t care.
Which do you think is worse: Having finally reuniting with your children only to have them taken away hours later. Or being told you are about to be reunited with your children, going through the process, and it never happens.
Well unlike Pablo and Antonio, Jorge and Diego were given false hope that they held onto until they realized it wasn’t going to happen. They were also driven to ICE facility and given papers that said they were about to be reunited and everything was being squared away in immigration court concerning their asylum claims. Jorge and Diego traveled with about 40 other parents thinking that they would be reunited at last while they stayed at the facility for a whole day wondering what was going on. After waiting, they were taken back to prison without explanation or reunification.
As if being kept away from your family isn’t bad enough, the conditions of these detention centers can sometimes be even worse. More and more people are being detained each day. And they are being kept longer than the legal limit of 20 days. This means that the detention camps are becoming more crowded and lacking adequate access to clean drinking water, toiletries, food and other essentials. “They woke us up at three in the morning and we were all so tired,” Says an 11-year-old Honduran boy. We were fed cold, raw meat and we never knew whether we would see our parents again.
Along with not having the needed essentials to sustain everyday life in these camps, there have been numerous reports of sexual assault against people in these detention camps. Many men and women have been sexually and physically abused by officers. These reports of sexual assault are widespread which means that they don’t just happen at one or two detention camps but all around us. These allegations are usually just brushed under the rug and go through no investigation.
Studies have been done to show the psychological issues that these extreme conditions cause. The kids that go through separation from their parents are more likely to have emotional problems. They tend to not trust law enforcement and have trouble controlling their anger. We must stop the separation of families at the border. It only causes more harm to helpless individuals and nothing good comes of it. Not only is it unnecessary, it is inhumane. I feel for these children and their families that are constantly being hurt and torn apart. Ask yourself are you against these injustices or do you side with the oppressors?
Dickerson, Caitlin. Jordan, Miriam. “More than 450 Migrant Parents May Have Been Deported
Without Their Children.” The New York Times. 24 July 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/24/us/migrant-parents-deported-children.html
Domonoske, Camila. Gonzales, Richard. “What We Know: Family Separation and ‘Zero
Tolerance’ at the Border.” National Public Radio, Inc. 19 June 2018.
Moore, Robert. “The Government Reunited Some Immigrant Families-Then took the Children
Away a Second Time.” Texas Monthly. 6 August 2018.
Silva, Daniella. “Like I am trash: Migrant children reveal stories of detention, separation.” NBC