What about the Children? An Update on the Status of the Central American Families Separated at the Border
By Michelle Martin, PhD, MSW
There are many questions people are asking about the humanitarian crisis involving the Central American immigrants who were separated from their children at the border in this past year, including
1) Who are the families involved?
2) How are the children being treated?
3) Are there any financial incentives involved in detaining asylum-seekers? 4) Will all the families be reunited?
In preparation for writing this blog post, I conducted a considerable amount of research, including reviewing public documents received from Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, reading all pleadings in the ACLU lawsuit filed against the government in March 2018 when the separations began, and other relevant documents. This post represents a summary of key issues related to the family separations, as well as outlining the potential path forward.
Who are the Families Involved?
According to President Trump, the Central American families who were separated from their children at the border are for the most part gang members and other criminals, including murderers. But is this accurate?
President Trump has made immigration a cornerstone of his presidency, pushing the limits of both political rhetoric and legality (some would say exceeding each). While the politicization of immigration is nothing new, the extent to which an American president has gone to implement an agenda is new.
Trump has on numerous occasions made inflammatory statements about the "border problem," referencing how immigrants are "flooding" the border (thus the need for an 'impenetrable' border wall). But are immigrants flooding our southern border? If we examine historical data and trends then the answer is a definitive no.
There are two dynamics occurring right now (actually, there are several, but I'm only going to address two in this post).
By Michelle Martin, PhD, MSW
The Trump administration has referenced several “Dem laws” they claim have tied their hands in the current crisis involving the separation of Central American children from their political asylum-seeking parents. The narrative, according to Sarah Sanders, White House spokesperson, is that President Trump didn’t create the crisis, but is just the first president to “come to the table” and do something about it.
The administration was initially somewhat mysterious about what specific laws they were referencing that “only Congress could fix,” so I, along with many others, took shots in the dark in an attempt to untangle the pertinent immigration legislation at play, exploring whether any of them would warrant separating the children from their parents who are being detained while they await their asylum hearing.
Since the initial zero-tolerance policy was implemented in April of this year, the administration has been more forthcoming in their legal stance, and several immigration experts have weighed in on the matter. This blog post is an attempt to make sense of the various laws and policies involved in this crisis.
Dr. Michelle Martin is a social worker, policy specialist and Assistant Professor at California State University, Fullerton in the Department of Social Work, where she teaches social welfare policy, and researches dynamics related to immigrants, political asylum-seekers, refugees and other displaced populations.