Was the United States Justified in Its Policy of Family Separation at the US-Mexico Border? - Top 3 Pros and Cons
|Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018 | ProCon.org | MORE HEADLINES|
On Apr. 6, 2018, Attorney General Jeff Sessions implemented a new "zero-tolerance" policy for illegal immigration that involved prosecuting all adults crossing the southwest border illegally, noting a 203% increase in illegal border crossings from 2017 to 2018. The change resulted in about 3,000 children being forcibly separated from their parents because the children couldn't be held in a federal jail alongside their parents. The separated migrant children were detained at government-run facilities, including a new "tent city" built to handle the influx of kids needing housing, while their parents were held in federal jail. Previously, families who were contesting deportation or applying for asylum remained in the United States out of detention until their cases were resolved.
The families separated at the border included a mix of legal asylum seekers and illegal border crossers from throughout Central America, many fleeing gang violence in their home nations. DHS states that families attempting to enter the country through legal means are not prosecuted, and that asylum seekers at ports of entry were not turned away. Media reports and an ACLU lawsuit disagree, saying that some asylum seekers at ports of entry in Texas and California were separated from their children or denied entry by armed Customs and Border Protection agents.
In a June 2018 national survey of 1,000 likely voters, Rasmussen Reports found that 54% of likely voters and 82% of Republicans believed that parents who attempted to enter the United States illegally were more to blame for the separation than the government. A Quinnipiac University poll found that 66% of Americans opposed the policy, compared to 27% who supported it; that support rose to 55% among Republicans.
Following an international outcry and planned nationwide protests, President Donald Trump signed an executive order on June 20 to keep families detained together. One week later, a federal judge ordered the government to reunite children with their parents within a month.
Proponents of the family separation at the US-Mexico border say the policy was intended as a deterrent to people making the long and dangerous journey to cross the US-Mexico border illegally. They also contend that the US government is trying to curb abuse of its asylum process and that people who knowingly violate US laws have to face the consequences.
Opponents of family separation at the border say that the separating children from their parents has a damaging psychological, emotional, and physical impact. They also contend that the policy violates international law and basic human rights, and that separating children from their parents because of immigration status is immoral.
Was the United States Justified in Its Policy of Family Separation at the US-Mexico Border?
Since 2014, the United States has witnessed a migration crisis from the 'Northern Triangle' region of Central America. This region, which includes Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala, is characterized by high levels of violence. Per capita intentional homicide rates display this violence where Honduras ranks second, El Salvador third, and Guatemala sixth in the world. Notably, in 2014 and 2015, over 90% of all unaccompanied immigrant children came from these three countries.
The Obama administration created guidelines that prioritized deporting individuals who posed a national security risk or committed felonies; the Trump administration enacted Executive Order 13768 to deport all immigrants charged with a crime. It also enacted a zero-tolerance policy, which stated that following the sentencing phase of cases, prosecutors should seek judicial orders of removal (deportation).
The Trump administration cited previous legislation and court decrees to justify its actions. First, the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 stated that any individual who crosses the border illegally is charged with a misdemeanor. This act lays the foundation to charge an immigrant in the country illegally with a misdemeanor, allowing the deportation process to begin per Executive Order 13768. Second, citing the 1997 consent decree in Flores v. Reno and the 2016 decision by the US Court of Appeals, Jeff Sessions stated that "ICE can only keep families detained together for a very short period of time."
On June 27, 2018, a federal judge appointed under President George W. Bush ordered the Trump Administration to reunite parents and children separated at the border within 30 days, and children under 5 within 14 days. As of Aug. 10, 1,569 minors have been reunited with their parents, while 559 still remain separated. Of those who have not been reunited, 386 could not been reunited due to parents already being deported. Additionally, 163 children couldn't be reunited because their parents did not want them to be reunited as they would rather have their child stay in the US than return to their home country.