There’s been a lot of talk about separating children from their parents at the border in recent days. Depending on who you ask, it’s either a complete necessity or an absolute evil. Here at UnitedVoice, we know that appearances can be deceiving; until you truly start to dig into the “why” of a situation, you can’t possibly know whether those public viewpoints are true. The media, politicians (from both sides), and even social media can influence how we feel and cause us to “fall for” fake news.
We decided to do a little bit of digging into this issue to see what the truth about separation really was. It turns out the answer isn’t straightforward; many people have the wrong idea about why and how it’s happening.
• First things first: Yes, sometimes children are separated at the border. To deny this fact would be tantamount to lying. Additionally, some of the videos and images you’ve seen of children detailed are, in fact, true.
• What isn’t true is the full story. You’re being told that children are indiscriminately being separated from their parents, either because the US wants to punish them and dissuade future immigrants or because border officials are “cruel.” This is false.
• In fact, multiple I.C.E. members and border patrollers have spoken up to state that removing children from their parents is undesired, uncommon, and heartbreaking. First Lady Melania Trump also stated that she “hates to see” children separated.
• To explain why and when child separation occurs, we need to go all the way back to 1997, during the Clinton Administration. At the time, government officials signed the Flores Consent Decree into order. It stated that children who are not accompanied by an adult could be held no more than 20 days at a time.
• However, adults who cross the border into America illegally are committing a crime – even if they bring children across in hope of a better life. Thus, they must be arrested and detained. If they claim asylum, it can take months or even years to process that claim – far longer than the government is permitted to hold their children.
• Officials are left with two options: release the adults with their children on their own recognizance, never to see them again. Or, turn the children over to the HHS while their parents are imprisoned and unable to care for them.
• There is a third option: release the children to their parents if and when they agree to be deported back to their home countries immediately. They always have the option to opt to go home.
• Children who come into the care of the HHS aren’t left in emergency shelters, such as those witnessed in videos, long-term. They may be temporarily housed there because I.C.E. quite literally does not have anywhere for them to go. While there, children are provided with care, counseling, food, and support.
• Once HHS steps in, most children are placed with migrant family members already in the United States. Some are released to the foster system, while others are sent home with relatives.
• The problem with ramping migration right now stems from previously lax arrangements that saw significant numbers of adults released if they brought children across the border. Families have capitalized on this to gain access to the United States, quickly disappearing, never to be seen again.
• When families disappear after entering the United States, it puts their children at great risk. Research shows children often go without medical care, without proper schooling, and in some cases, without shelter or protection.
• No one likes separating children from their parents, especially when children are still in toddlerhood or pre-teen ages. But it just isn’t an option to release them into the country or let them stay in prison with their parents. In terms of traumatic experiences, staying in an emergency shelter and then moving in with relatives is far less problematic.
• A final point to consider is the fact that we simply do not provide border services with enough money to house children and families together. There are only approximately 3,000 family units available; migrant numbers far exceed the availability.
• If the separation bothers you, you have options to resolve it. Get involved; lobby the government for change. Ask the Trump administration to remove the Flores Decree and allot more money into expediting true asylum cases so parents and children don’t need to be separated. It’s about helping those who really need it, not those who simply smuggle in children to get in illegally.