Unit 2 OP-ED

Child Separation and Americas Response


What is there to gain from removing children from their families? Separating children for the purpose of a political goal is horrible and inhumane. When the separation of children was first made public earlier this year, the outrage from citizens sparked conversation regarding what the president’s true intentions were when it comes to immigration. Feeling the pressure from fellow advisors and supporters, trump decided to discontinue the zero-tolerance policy. The zero-tolerance policy was first created by the department of homeland security with the purpose of scaring future immigrants from coming to the U.S. by separating children from their guardians.

To this day, there are still hundreds of children who have yet to be reunited with their loved ones and are still living in sub-adequate conditions. Additionally, Trump’s legislation has only made solutions that would further support his own political agenda of preventing any immigrant from coming into the country rather than help human beings. I believe that it is terrible to hide behind the idea that separating families is good for our country and I do not think enough is being done to unite and protect families from danger.

Recently, the Presidents suggested option was to increase the amount of time children are in custody with their families. However, there is an obstacle called “The Flores Settlement”. The settlement required all children to be detained for only 20 days. After this period, they would be released to a sponsor or foster care outside of Immigration and Custom Enforcement prisons and be given a certain quality of life. For the past decade, this settlement has also separated children from families, but with the intention of them being placed in a more nurturing environment.

The problem with Trump’s suggestion is that it keeps children in a non-supportive and abusive environment where they are forced to sleep on the floor and be given only two meals a day. ICE prison is no place for a child as it can be traumatic and negatively affect the mental health of those being held in such facilities. The risk only increases when we separate them from parents and loved ones who make them feel protected. It has been shown that children who have been removed from their families undergo distress and possibly develop PTSD while being detained.

While Trump’s administration discusses how to get rid of the Flores settlement issue, he has tweeted about how illegal immigrants should not be given due process and immediately be sent back to their home country. His reason is so that courts would not have to be slower to accommodate illegal immigrants and allow time to those who go through the immigration process legally. This caused debate among fellow republicans and supporters who found the idea unconstitutional. It completely disregards the 5th amendment, which gives the right to due process to citizens and all other persons, and 14th amendment which protects citizens and immigrants, both legal and illegal, basic rights.

The reason why this is connected to child separation is because courts were halted in order to figure out what to do with children who are now considered unaccompanied alien children or UAC. All children separated from their families at the border are given this label. It takes longer to process immigrant children in court compared to adults. By the time a child is given due process, their parents are most likely already deported back to their home country.

An obvious solution to combat how slow immigrant courts are is to hire more judges. It is currently estimated that there are 400 judges who work on immigrant cases. This is not enough to properly process through all immigrant parents who just want to be with their children. By hiring more judges to help process through families, we can quickly reunite children with their loved ones and decrease the amount of people in ICE prison.

This also relates to how most parents who have yet to be reunited have voluntarily left or have been deported from the United States. Courts have been able to process through adults without issue and send immigrants back to their country, however this does not go the same for children. Parents who request for their children’s return to them have been stopped or slowed because of court orders and unorganized documentation of where children are currently being held. In attempt to contact their children, families are met with limited answers and excuses from ICE staff members to protect the privacy of those being detained. It’s a constant game of hide and seek for these families who only want to be reunited with their sons and daughters. This issue can also be solved with more judges to increase the amount of cases being processed at a time and allow review of current court orders which are currently slowing down the system.

Another solution to the child separation issue is to offer more chances to asylum. Asylum offers international protection from the dangers from a migrant’s home country. However, migrants must apply in the country of destination such as the United States. This is prevented most of the time because the current administration denies most requests fearing that migrants are bringing drugs and violence. This false accusation somehow creates the excuse that for the protection of everyone, migrants must be placed in ICE prison and be sent back to their home country immediately. This option however only increases the amount of bodies having to be held in prisons and makes the process of court hearings slower.

One reason that some families are still separated is because parents do not want their children to be stuck in a cold abusive environment like ICE prison and therefore deny reuniting with their children. This is an extremely difficult choice for a parent to make, but they know that their children are more likely to find support if they are not with their family. No parent should have to come to this decision. By offering asylum, families can be reunited and be more willing to work with the government on their immigration status and be responsible to attend court dates.

Many of the issues involved with child separation can be easily fixed if we stop focusing only on our own political goals. To use children as a message to prevent future illegal immigrants from coming to the United States is terrible and has only made the process of immigrating messier. There was nothing to gain treating these children as a symbol rather than a human being.

As we are moving forward, we will learn from this political mistake. We need to hire more judges for immigrant courts to increase the number of cases being processed and examine the appropriate outcomes without rush. We also need to increase the chances of asylum to migrants to allow full cooperation with government policies and protect those who are in danger. By implementing these solutions, we can finally reunite families and somewhat fix the damage that our current administration has caused.



Arias, G (Photographer). (2018, May 7) Child alone after being separated from family [digital image] Retrieved from https://www.newsweek.com/jeff-sessions-children-parents-border-912972


American Bar Association (2018, June 8) Background on Separation of Families and Prosecution of Migrants at the Southwest Border Retrieved from https://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/administrative/immigration/Background%20on%20Separation%20of%20Families%206-19-18.pdf


Roth, B. J., Crea, T. M., Jani, J., Underwood, D., Hasson III, R. G., Evans, K., & Zuch, M. (in press).

Detached and afraid: U.S. immigration policy and the practice of forcibly separating parents and young children at the border. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/325805662_Detached_and_Afraid_US_Immigration_Policy_and_the_Practice_of_Forcibly_Separating_Parents_and_Young_Children_at_the_Border


Torres, S. A., Santiago, C. D., Walts, K. K., & Richards, M. H. (2018). Immigration policy, practices, and procedures: The impact on the mental health of Mexican and Central American youth and families. American Psychologist, 73(7), 843-854. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/amp0000184



Summarize of Sources

-Background on Separation of Families and Prosecution of Migrants at the Southwest Border:

The background provides thirteen legal discussions that are involved with child separation. Its main purpose is to explain common misconceptions about the issue and provide more realistic explanations and statistics surrounding the topic. it touches on how the situation has slowed due process and gives to much work to our current immigration courts. Its biggest message is that our current administration needs to reduce the prosecution of those who are fleeing trauma form their home country.

The background was created in June of this year. It offers very detailed paragraphs for each discussion with updated statistics. I found the that the background made it easy to understand the different issue involved with child separation and why there needs to be change in our immigration policies. It provides references for topics that readers may use to find more clarification in specific topics within the background and discussion.


-Detached and afraid: U.S. immigration policy and the practice of forcibly separating parents and young children at the border:

This article is based off research the many professors have completed regarding the treatment of children separated at the border. Those placed into foster care during the time of being detained experience mental and social challenges. The research done in the article targets those challenges and evaluates what to the foster care does to deal with them. What was found was that trauma and stress increase in these groups of children and they have a hard time trusting adult who are not their parents.

The article was last updated on September 25 of this year. Currently, it is being published to Child Welfare to touch a wider audience of people. I like this source because it is extremely simple research about getting to know the children involved how this issue is truly affecting them.  It also brings to light how effective foster care is in taking care of child immigrants and offering programs to make them feel comfortable.

-Immigration Policy, Practices, and Procedures: The Impact on the Mental Health of Mexican and Central American Youth and Families:

The study examines how our immigration process impacts the mental health of migrants in common situations once they are at the border. It not only explains the trauma migrants will experience during their travel, but also when they are at the border and placed into detention facilities. There is a section that talk about unaccompanied children and the negative implication it has on the developing brain. Towards the end it summarizes what should be done to support immigrants who develop poor mental health.

The article has been updated this past year to add additional situations that can contribute to poor mental health in immigrants. The study is very detailed and good for these who interested in mental health and our immigration process. At times I do feel like it becomes repetitive, but this could be because the experience leads to the same outcome for most migrants facing trauma. It offers other reference to investigate ranging from different years to show a kind of time line of important events in our immigration.