Separating Families at the Border

By Jessica Torres, Contributing Writer

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Photo courtesy of Jonathan McIntosh (Flickr)

Deciding to cross the border illegally is sometimes the only option people have. It is not a decision that anyone else should think comes about lightly, especially for immigrants who have children. Choosing to cross the border by yourself is a difficult decision to make, and, therefore, deciding to bring your kids along usually comes after a lot of consideration. The fact that the United States is considering a new strategy of separating children and their parents does not seem very American.

Currently, illegal children and their mothers are held in family detention centers when caught at the border, and can only be held there for 21 days. The main idea behind this was to not separate kids from their parents. John Kelly, the new secretary of Homeland Security, recently confirmed that this separation is being considered once again. He told CNN, “I would do almost anything to deter the people from Central America getting on this very, very dangerous network that brings them up from Mexico.”

The main purpose of this proposal is to deter immigrants from coming into the United States through the border. This new administration has made it clear that they do not want any illegal immigrants here and are therefore willing to go to any lengths they see fit to stop people from crossing the border.

It is important to remember that many of those people crossing the border are leaving behind their homes that are in some of the most violent places in the world. They want a better life for themselves and their families. Many of the women who have crossed the border were fleeing for their lives. Those people fleeing for their lives come here to apply for asylum. To apply for asylum, however, you have to be here in the United States. They cannot apply beforehand, and many do not want to risk being denied a visa. We should not judge these people for crossing the border and treat them badly when crossing the border could have been their last option.

Once here though, Kelly wants to separate parents and children. Children would go into foster care while either a family member of theirs is located in the United States for them to stay with, or they have to remain a ward of the state while a judge decides on their fate. Their mothers, however, would be sent to a detention center anywhere in the country while waiting to hear from a judge. How does any of that seem okay?

Do we have any right to go ahead and separate families just in the hope others will stop crossing the border? We should not want to hurt any families and should not even be considering that option. These families could be leaving behind a lot of suffering, so why should we add on to it? Separating children from their parents can cause emotional and physical stress, which they could already be dealing with due to their lives back in their home countries.

It seems like we are forgetting that immigrants crossing the border are people. We are forgetting that they are people who have been through things maybe far worse than we could ever imagine. It does not seem very American to separate children from their parents, even though they are breaking the law by crossing the border. They should continue to be held together in family detention centers as their case is looked at by a judge. Immigration at the border is down compared to this time last year, therefore, maybe this new administration can stop considering this horrendous option as it does not even seem necessary.

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