Immigrant Children

Posted by James, 25 Jun

If you’re on social media, chances are you’ve seen the intense conversation surrounding the new immigration policy in the US. Reports of children getting separated from their parents kicking and screaming are everywhere. Many migrant children have been placed in shelters where they have to sleep on the floor behind fences while they beg border control officers to let them go back to their parents.

These images are disturbing and depressing but many of these reports are misinformed or misleading. Journalists and even people working for immigration services are having a hard time keeping up with the ever-changing laws and bills regarding these cases. Here’s what we do know:

Recently the Trump administration put in place a zero-tolerance policy on immigrants crossing the US border illegally, meaning they are automatically criminally persecuted. Those caught not crossing the border at ports of entry are detained and put in jail while they await trial.

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Before this policy, people were taken to immigration detention centers where they would be deported with no criminal charges. With the new policy, however, it means that children are getting separated from their parents as children are not allowed to be detained thanks to the Flores settlement. Instead, the children have to be placed with close relatives or be sent to shelters where they will be in ‘less restrictive conditions’.

Many of the people crossing over to the US are fleeing gang violence, mainly from Central America, and thus have a legal claim to asylum according to Article 31 of the Refugee Convention. Since April more than 2,300 children have been separated from their parents screaming and crying. This, paired with the conditions at the prison-like shelters the children are housed in, have prompted many human rights activists to call the situation inhumane.

The children sleep on thin mattresses on the floor and although they are being given all the basics they need, the emotional distress caused to them because they were separated from their parents is what’s worrying. The children are not allowed to speak to journalists and cameras in shelters are strictly monitored. Some journalists, however, have managed to get the images and cries of these children out into the public. Many of these children are heard crying and wailing for their parents while begging to make phone calls to family members to come to pick them up. Most of them are between the ages of 4 and 10 but some have been reported as being as young as 18 months old.

The situation has caused an uproar amongst human rights activists, the UN and even celebrities for violating international law. Dr. Collen Kraft, Head of the American Academy of Pediatrics, has called the situation ‘government-sanctioned child abuse’. Celebrities like Chris Evans, Ellen DeGeneres, John Legend, Alyssa Milano and many more have commented on the situation calling it inhumane and have used their high profiles names to take action. George and Amal Clooney have already donated $100,000 to the Young Center for Immigrant Children, while author J.K. Rowling has used her foundation Lumos, which helps disadvantaged children around the world, to draw attention to the problem. The Pope himself commented on Twitter saying; ‘A person’s dignity does not depend on them being a citizen, migrant or a refugee. Saving the life of someone fleeing war and poverty is an act of humanity’.

The administration is looking to stop children being separated from their parents, but this could potentially mean detaining children with their parents. This would violate other laws and human rights already in place to protect children from being kept by the government for more than 20 days. It could also mean releasing the children to social services and foster care families that could tear families apart or put them in more danger.

Protests all over the US are taking place to push the government to reunite the migrant families. Many children are still waiting to be reunited with their parents, many have not had contact with each other for weeks. This may have to do with the massive number of children scattered at various shelters across the country. Oklahoma Senator James Lankford claims the government knows “where every single child is [located].” Some children have already been reunited with their parents but what will happen if their families remain unknown?

Wherever you stand on the immigration issue, most will agree that children getting separated from their parents is utterly inhumane and traumatizing, to say the least. Here are some websites dedicated to helping the immigrant children you can visit to learn more about the situation and even donate money:

You can act now.

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