There has been a massive public outcry over immigration enforcement tactics--and for good reason. The U.S. has forcibly separated over 2,000 children from their parents in the last few weeks at our southern border. PCAR believes strongly that every effort should be made to keep families together, and those who have been separated must be reunited. All migrants, no matter how they enter the United States, should be treated with human dignity and be given due process.
On Wednesday, President Trump signed an executive order that his administration says puts an end the practice of separating families. This is true – families will no longer be ripped apart – but the “zero tolerance” policy is still in place. Instead, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) can now detain children with their parents indefinitely.
Family detention is not an acceptable solution.
We are a great nation that is capable of being both a secure and compassionate country. We must end these cruel and harmful policies taking place at our borders.
Many of those crossing into the U.S. are legally seeking asylum from threats of violence and persecution in their home countries. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights guarantees individuals the right to seek asylum and claim refugee status in another country if they have a well-founded fear or threat to their life.
Many factors have contributed to the chaotic situation unfolding at our border:
- There have been reports that asylum seekers are being turned away at the border, preventing them from making their asylum claim.
- Asylum seekers who have been turned away see no option other than to try to enter the U.S. illegally.
- A new zero tolerance policy mandated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions made it standard practice to criminally charge everyone crossing the border illegally, even those claiming asylum.
- The Flores Settlement prohibited the U.S. from detaining children indefinitely. Therefore, children were being separated from their parents, treated as unaccompanied minors, and placed into temporary housing and foster care until their parents go through the courts.
Placing children in detention facilities puts them at high risk for sexual abuse and exploitation. Immigrant children are highly vulnerable due to social, cultural, and language isolation as well as the very experiences of trauma that brought them to the U.S. seeking asylum. When separated from their caregivers, children become dependent on other adults for basic care and safety which further increases their risk of abuse and exploitation.
The ground-breaking Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has proven that early childhood trauma is directly connected to major health problems later in life and some of the leading causes of death in the United States are connected with childhood trauma. Traumatic experiences at a young age increase the risk of victimization including sexual assault, as well as chronic health conditions, mental health and substance abuse problems, and suicide. All children have the right to safe, stable, and nurturing environments where they can live a life free of trauma.
Families should be kept together and no child should be detained or treated as a criminal - especially those seeking our protection. We urge Congress to end these harmful practices and reunite families that have already been separated. There are alternatives to family separation and detention that would guarantee that individuals show up to their court hearings while being treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.
We are a nation of immigrants that has a history of being a compassionate and global leader in human rights.
Let us not compromise our country’s values under the guise of showing “strength” at our borders.