August 18, 2019 | 81° F

DEANGELO: Immigrant family separation has undesirable consequences

Opinions Column: All That Fits


Inside a Chicago detention center for immigrant children, a 16-year-old from Guatemala cried out “quitarme la vida,” or “take my life away,” according to a Pro Publica report.  The youngest among him is 10 months old, and the oldest 18 — all of whom have at least one parent behind bars in a far, unknown place likely hundreds of miles away.

They are just some of the children still awaiting reunification after being ripped from their families as a result of President Donald J. Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy implemented last April. President Trump has since expressed that he, “didn’t like the like or feeling of families being separated,” and signed an executive order to stop it. 

So, then why is the current administration still taking strides to detain migrant children indefinitely? Just last week, the Department of Homeland Security announced a proposal to roll back an agreement, known as the Flores settlement, which limits the amount of time the government can hold immigrant children in their custody. 

Normally, a child would spend a finite amount of time in the hands of officials before being taken to a shelter and issued into the system of sponsorship. Now, the new rules look to eliminate that time stamp and expand the act of jailing kids. 

“It is sickening to see the United States government looking for ways to jail more children for longer,” Omar Jadwat, director of the ACLU’s Immigrant’s Rights Project, said, “That’s the complete opposite of what we should be doing.”

According to the New York Times, the D.H.S. argued that if undocumented adults were made aware of the ramifications that traveling with a child entailed by example, they would be less inclined to cross the border. But, how can one prove that?

If the president’s goal is to deter future migrants from crossing our borders, this short-fix tactic will create more damage in the long run. It will continue to result in irreparable psychological damage of children and parents and it will not stop people from coming. History proves it.

The United States has struggled managing unaccompanied minors and migrants. In the 1950’s, the government lost track of many refugee children from Hungary who were fleeing the Soviet invasion because of a lack of guidance and confusion, according to a 2016 report conducted by Villanova University. In the 1980’s kids immigrating from Cuba and Africa were detained more than they were released.

Across the country, there is a crisis that has emerged silently. President Trump’s migrant policy has become a reality so strict that even morality seems soft. 

Even as Hurricane Florence hits landfall tonight, the president took large sums of money from FEMA, which is used for post-storm relief, and transferred it to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement. This is another loud statement of values. 

Whatever your partisan stance is on immigration, on the distribution of tax-payer funds, or on the administration I urge you to briefly pause and think about the grave consequences that will come from the dismemberment of the Flores agreement. What are we accomplishing when keeping a child from his or her parents is the best way to solve the issues at our border?

In these divided times we have lost the ability to hold a widened perspective — one that looks past argued opinions. Most see the name “Trump” in a headline and immediately choose to either support or resist. We must look past ourselves and recognize the humanity of migrants. 

Americans were collectively horrified by heart wrenching images of babies being ripped from their mothers at the southern border but have since turned a cheek in the news cycle. We musn’t let families stay separated for the sake of example, or we will pay the price of it. 

Julia Deangelo is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in journalism and media studies. Her column, "All That Fits," runs on alternate Thursdays. 


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Julia Deangelo

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