Good afternoon, my name is Lynnsey Wills and I will be talking about the effects of the Zero Tolerance Policy, or also known as the Child Separation Act. Imagine when you were younger and were separated from your parents in a foreign place. I suspect you experienced thoughts of feeling scared, unsure of where your parents were, or if you were even safe. Now imagine if you had to feel like this for over eight months and were also forced to stay in awful living conditions. That is what victims of the Zero Tolerance Policy are experiencing right now in their day-to-day life.
We all remember watching the news and seeing the images of crying children, and the number of those being separated increasing each day. There was nonstop talk of families being separated among the US public. Many, including myself, asked “Why is our government doing this?”. And then silence. Whatever happened to those families? Well I’m here to tell you what happened. The Zero Tolerance Policy was a terrible idea and separating these families made everything, particularly for reuniting them, slow and disorganized. However, there are ways of fixing the damage caused and there are even ways to improve our system of immigration.
Now the problem of the Zero Tolerance Policy expands beyond just merely separating children from their families. The current immigration regulations, processes, and communications have also been negatively impacted.
The Immigration system has slowed while trying to process separated family cases. There are three main issues from child separation in immigration According to Chishti and Bolter, in the article Family Separation and “Zero-Tolerance” Policies Rolled Out to Stem Unwanted Migrants, But May Face Challenges, published to Migration Policy Institute on May 24th of 2018. First, there are not enough judges to process remaining children and other immigration cases. Second, there is not enough space in ORR facilities for these children. And third, there is limited communication about the conditions of these children. These three problems, when combined, have made the system chaotic.
There are also the significant psychological effects that separation has on children. As explained by Toress in Immigration Policy, Practices, and Procedures: the Impact on the Mental Health of Mexican and Central American Youth and Families, that was published to APAPsycNet in October of 2018, separation from their family can negatively affect the cognitive development of a growing child. The harsh detention centers where children were, or are being held, have also shown to cause a development of mental disorders like anxiety, depression, and PTSD.
And now, current policies that protect these children are being threatened by the current administration. This is best explained in Background on Separation of Families and Prosecution of Migrants at the Southwest Border that was published by the American Bar Association on June 8th, 2018. President Trumps administration wants to get rid of the Flores Agreement, which gives children quality of life outside of detention centers while their cases are processed. He also wants to deny due process to migrants, which goes against the 5th and 14th amendments of the United States Constitution.
The Zero Tolerance Policy, as well as the current administration, have done more harm than good for our country by the act of separating families. They have made everything slow, confusing and disorganized. However, there are solutions that are available to fix these problems.
First, we need to fix our immigration system. A simple and obvious solution is hiring more judges to run immigration courts. This will increase the number of cases being heard at a time and promote review of court policies that can improve the amount of time spent on migrant cases. In the document Detached and Afraid: U.S. Immigration Policy and Practice of Forcibly Separating Parents and Young Children at the Border created in resaerchgate in may of 2018, Roth and other researchers show communication needs to improve in regards to those who are still separated. This helps process child cases in a timely manner and informs the conditions they have been held in and the legal hold-ups to their parents to help reunite families faster.
Second, we need to protect immigrants’ current rights. We must protect the Flores Agreement. This policy promises better living situation than being detained and prevents the likelihood of a child developing a mental disorder like PTSD when they are held in jail like conditions. No child should have to suffer in prison locked in cages for having done nothing wrong, just having parents who wanted a better life for them that happened to be in America. We must also prevent the current administration from taking away due process. This is to protect the constitutional rights offered to immigrants who often seek asylum as refugees and prevent the president from thinking he can change our constitution when he feels like it.
With these solutions, we can move towards a more positive future for immigration with processes and structure that allow people to come to this country.
The solutions will not only improve the child separation issue but, will also improve our immigration system. Families will finally be reunited and make migrant families more likely to work with our country’s policies. Immigrant children will also be less likely to develop PTSD or other long-term mental disorders from being detained at such young ages. Our immigration system will finally start to improve after decades of inefficiency. There will be more judges to process through all immigration cases, not just those affected by child separation. And, the system will finally be on a path to becoming more organized.
To summarize, the Zero Tolerance Policy has made our immigration process even messier, but there are solutions to fixing this mess, and our country will improve by implementing more judges and reuniting families. We can create a clearer future from fixing the current administrations mistakes and unite not only the families that were separated but also unite our country with a way forward on how people who want to live in this country can do so.
Association, A. B. (2018, June 8). Background on Separation of Families and Prosecution of Migrants at the Southwest Border. Retrieved October 2018
Chishti, M. J. (2018, May 24). Family Seperation and “Zero-Tolerance” Policies Rolled Out to Stem Unwatned Migrants, But May Face Challenges.
Roth, B. J. (2018, August). Detached and Afraid: U.S. Immigration Policy and Practice of Forcibly Separating Parents and Young Children at the Border .
Torres, S. A. (2018, October ). Immigration Policy, Practices, and Procedures: the Impact on the Mental Health of Mexican and Central American Youth and Families.