By Shireen Kahlon
In April 2018, President Donald Trump announced the “zero-tolerance” policy for undocumented migrants and refugees entering the United States which stated that anybody who crosses the border illegally can and will be arrested and detained. Over the next two months, the National Guard detained 2,000 families. Throughout this period they have separated children and babies from parents, putting the children in their own detention center. The Trump Administration has argued they use the “zero-tolerance” policy to deter other immigrants from illegally crossing the border, and President Trump reiterated that he plans to continue the policy until he gets funding for the border wall. Regardless of the Administration’s justification for their actions, the separation of families and detaining human being in prison-like camps are human rights violations in the vein of the Japanese Internment Camps in WWII and the early stages of the Holocaust.
On June 20th, President Trump signed an executive order to allow families to stay together in detainment camps. However, this executive order does not specify how the over 2,300 children and babies already separated from their families will be reunited with their parents.
In recent weeks, many political leaders have laid out policies to battle the family separation policy. Although he at first defended President Trump’s policy, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) took a step back to call for an emergency policy to end family separations. On June 19th, Senator Cruz stated he would introduce a policy that would require families to stay together, for new temporary shelters to be created to reduce overcrowding, and to expedite the process for immigrants seeking asylum into the United States. This proposed legislation has been supported by numerous Republican senators including senators Marco Rubio (R-FLA), Roy Blunt (R-MO), and Todd Young (R-IND) amongst many others.
Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) announced last week that he and many other conservative senators are working on a piece of legislation that would go hand-in-hand with Cruz’s policy. Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) also commented on the family separation crisis, and promising that he and other senators are working on legislation that would be supported by both Democratic and Republican senators alike.
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) has introduced the “Keep Families Together Act” which has garnered the support of all Democrat senators. This act says that family separations would become illegal except in cases where the child is in danger while being under the care of his or her parents. However, Feinstein’s act has not received bipartisan support, with Republican senators arguing it is too narrowly-based.
Other senators, including Lindsay Graham (R-SC), have expressed their intention to speak with President Trump on ending the family separation policy. Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) has strongly opposed Trump’s policy, hitting back by saying that separating migrant children from their parents will cause severe trauma to the children and that they should not be used as pawns in the immigration debate.
Until an act passes, the only person who can make any changes is President Trump.
Update: On Tuesday, June 26, 2018 a Federal Judge in California ordered federal officials to stop detaining parents apart from their minor children, absent a determination the parent is unfit or the parent declines reunification; reunify all parents with their minor children who are under the age of 5 within 14 days and reunify all parents with their minor children age 5 and older within 30 days. As of June 28, 2018, this Order has not yet been followed.
Photo attribution: By PetrohsW CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], from Wikimedia Commons
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