Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Immigration Policy: Why are Children Coming Alone?

Families migrating from Mexico to the United States have sent approximately 135 children across the border alone. This has been a result from Trump’s administration policy. This policy takes migrants more than three hundred miles from where they primarily crossed the border, and eventually returns them to Mexico from El Paso, Texas to wait for their US immigration proceedings.

The US Department of Health and Human Services said that these children had previously come with their families to the border but had been returned to Mexico. A close source of the situation said, "Parents are sending their kids in order for them to find refuge. We're forcing them to separate in order for them to care for their children," pointing at Trump’s policy. If this policy continues, more families will be torn and broken up.

So why are parents choosing to do this?

First, these families would be added to 800,000 other immigration cases waiting to be resolved as well. One of the biggest hurdles that migrants face is the wait to have their cases heard.

The unresolved immigration cases have increased nearly fifty percent since Donald Trump took office in 2017. The average case takes 578 days to complete, which is about 1 year and 7 months. That’s a long time to wait, especially if the reason you are crossing the border is to seek asylum for your family.

Another factor is that children are exempt from this “remain in Mexico” policy. When they cross the border, they are taken by the Department of Homeland Security and referred to US Health and Human Services. Case managers then place these children with a sponsor in the United States.  

Why is sending children alone across the border risky?

The last stop for Central American migrants is the scrublands and desert in Northern Mexico. Along their journey, they are likely to experience assaults, robbery, and abduction by criminal gangs. Sometimes they can’t even trust police and immigration officials because of peoples’ reports of coercion and ill-treatment from them.

As many as 20,000 migrants are kidnapped every year for reasons such as ransom. Also, six in ten migrant women and girls are raped in their journey. These abducted women and children are subject to trafficking as well. These situations don’t seem ideal for a child to be dealing with alone.

Around 60,000 migrants are currently in Mexico as a result from the policy. Families are being forced to make the decision of separating their family. Separating their child could mean its safety, or even livelihood.

Explaining this to your child and following through with the separation can cause much harm to the child. The family separation just adds to the trauma that they have already been experiencing in their home environments and journey to the border.

Ian Gotlib, a psychology professor at Stanford University, shows in his research that early life stress is a significant risk factor for depression and suicidal behaviors. It also affects brain development and causes long-term negative consequences for psychological and physical health.

He says that the first step to lessening these effects is to reunite these migrant children to their parents. However, how often does this actually happen?

In closing

A Department of Homeland Security spokesperson said, “parents will continue to use their children to exploit legal vulnerabilities in our immigration system.” However, as we have learned, if these migrant families don’t send their children alone across the border, their children might never have a good life, or even survive.

The policy of sending migrants back to Mexico while they wait for their court date continues to expand. Also expanding are the many shelters along the border, which are cropped up, makeshift tent camps. These are being overwhelmed with migrants waiting for their turn in court.

The fact is that children are being sent across the border. They are alone without their families and succumbed to the dangers that come with making that journey. This is in reaction to Trump’s policy to return migrants while they wait for their court hearings. If this continues, then families will continue being separated and children migrating over the boarder alone will continue experiencing negative, psychologically long-term consequences.

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