By Nathan Smith, New Generation Voters
The Time magazine recently published an issue that featured a small child crying, while the president stared down at her. The image has grabbed the attention of the nation, leading many to attack the president and his administration as cruel and insensitive individuals. Those that reside in the gated communities of coastal southern California sit back and try to go after President Trump on social media, raise funds for immigrant children to be reunited with their families, and try to create a general uproar against the administration. They spread images of crying children with no context, declare that the president and his administration enjoy ripping families apart, and proclaim that the members of the Democratic Party are the only ones that actually care about the fate of these young children.
It is too easy to let emotions get in the way when trying to solve political issues. The issues with our nation’s immigration system are not to be blamed entirely on the Trump administration. For a few decades now, presidents have criticized the immigration system, but have failed to actually produce any substantial reforms. The Obama administration responded to the immigration crisis of 2014 by detaining hundreds of families and children illegally crossing the border. Federal courts were able to stop the federal government from holding the families indefinitely, which allowed most families to end up being released before their cases were decided.
The Trump administration has developed a more hard-line approach. They are now prosecuting a larger number of illegal immigrants and asylum seekers, which often sends many of the children to the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). The process continues as ORR officials try to find the nearest relative that can claim the children and resolve their cases. The facilities are now at their maximum capacity as of this month where over 11000 children are being held. The ACLU has released reports of verbal abuse and sexual harassment done by the Border Patrol agents who are in charge of the children while at the ORR.
In response to the increasing levels of detention, the ORR has been looking for ways to expand, reaching out to foster care centers in many states, just trying to find places to hold the children, while the fate of their parents is decided. While there is no official Trump administration on separating families when they cross the border, this comes about because the policy is that the adults should be criminally prosecuted when they illegally cross the border. This leads to the inevitable separation of families. Once the parents’ fate has been decided, there is no way for the families to be reunited. While ICE and the DHS claim that parents are able to be reunited with their children in civil immigration detention, the reality is that there is no easy way for this to happen.
The president claims that there is a “Democratic law” that is to blame for the family separations. In reality, the most recent reform that addresses unaccompanied children was passed in 2008 and signed by George W. Bush. The “zero-tolerance” policy that Attorney General Jeff Sessions has sought to implement for the past few months makes the case that the blame should be placed on the administration. The Secretary of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielson, stated recently that family separation is not an official policy of the administration. This is correct, but it seems to be part of the “zero-tolerance” policy that the administration is seeking to implement to deal with the crisis.
In the past few weeks as the issue has heated up, the president has done what he can to respond temporarily to the crisis. He signed an executive order on June 20th that ends the “widespread family separation”. The order keep the old policy of criminally prosecuting families that cross the border, but they will all be housed together in detention facilities. It will instruct the DHS and other agencies to come up with plans to house the families, while their cases are addressed. Under current policy, the administration can keep a family in detention for up to 20 days, which forces officials to make decisions based on how many families are prosecuted and how much space there is for detention. The order addressed this by setting a motion in place to allow the courts to give them permission to hold families together longer than 20 days.
This is only an entry level discussion on the issue. There are many sides to blame and mostly it should fall on the complex federal bureaucratic system. The lack of comprehensive immigration reform from Congress is a huge part of the problem. Both sides have simply been unable to come up with a solution that satisfies the administration’s goal of keeping the border secure, while also allowing a path to amnesty for those that are apprehended. As Congress stalls, the president and his administration are trying to handle the directives needed to be given to the various agencies involved to fix the process of family separation.
As mentioned before, it is important to put emotions aside and try to understand the problem. Instead, the wealthy and powerful are muddying the discussion with attacks on the administration, outcries on social media, and encouraging resistance. Congress should be responsible for creating legislation that actually addresses all of these issues. The federal agencies need to do a much better job of implementing the policies that are in place and coordinating in making conditions better for those that are seeking asylum. Regardless, while the administration can be blamed partially for the crisis, President Trump should not be characterized as a heartless and cruel individual that is seeking to separate families that are illegally trying to enter the nation.