Politicks Me Off: New Immigration Policy Causes More Harm

Elenna Mach, Editor-in-Chief

Since its implementation in May, the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy has received backlash for its inhumane and unethical practice of separating children from their parents. Now the administration is proposing a “binary choice” policy in which detained parents decide whether their children stay with them in detainment after 20 days or are separated. However, this policy should not be instated because of its infeasibility and inhumane consequences that are similar to those of the zero-tolerance policy.

The zero-tolerance policy aimed to prosecute illegal immigrants through the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Agency in hopes of slowing the flow of immigrants into the U.S. The government said that it was necessary for the prosecution of illegal aliens, but it had a major flaw: children of these illegal immigrants were split apart from their family members and put in government-licensed shelters or in temporary foster care with families all over the country.

Trump’s June 20 executive order ended family separation by allowing family detainment, but over 2,500 children had already been separated from their families over a six-week time period. Many of these children were apart from their parents for months, which could lead to permanent trauma. These children, ranging in age from a couple months old to teenagers, can suffer from separation anxiety, eating disorders and sleep troubles resulting from recurring nightmares, according to a June 18 article in The Washington Post.

“The effect is catastrophic,” Harvard pediatrics professor Charles Nelson told the Post. “There’s so much research on this that if people paid attention at all to the science, they would never do this.”

Binary choice allows detained parents to either remain detained together with their children while their cases go through the system, or allow their children to be sent to a government shelter so other family members can seek custody while the parents remain in jail. The administration is currently considering a binary choice pilot program to test how it would work and how parents would proceed with their decisions, a senior Department of Homeland Security official said to CNN in an Oct. 16 article.

If the government were to implement binary choice, the Office of Refugee Resettlement (part of the Health and Human Services Agency) must create better shelters for unaccompanied and separated minors. Stories about the government-licensed shelters that separated children were held in horrified the nation. Pictures and reporting of the shelters depicted prison-like conditions. There were unsanitary bathrooms and aluminum foil blankets in the “icebox” shelters where frightened children slept on the floor, according to a July 9 CNN article. These merciless conditions dehumanize the minors who are placed in these shelters– many of whom are “tender-age children” or those younger than five years-old, according to a June 20 Washington Post article. This is not who the United States is as a country nor what this country stands for.

“There’s so much research on this that if people paid attention at all to the science, they would never do this.”  -Harvard pediatrics professor Charles Nelson 

In addition to these horrid conditions, the government does not have enough detention space to accommodate the influx of additional families. Currently, ICE has three “family residential centers” that could hold around 3,000 parents and children, a minuscule amount considering that there are more than four times that many arriving each month, according to an Oct. 12 Washington Post article. Because of the lack of shelter space, binary choice would be ineffective and would only cause more problems.

Senior White House adviser Stephen Miller is advocating for tougher laws, including binary choice, in regards to the U.S.-Mexico border because he believes that earlier parent-children separations worked as an effective deterrent to illegal crossings, the Washington Post reported Oct. 12. In the same article, deputy White House press secretary Hogan Gidley said that the U.S. government is “working to analyze and evaluate options that would protect the American people, prevent the horrific actions of child smuggling, and stop drug cartels from pouring into our communities.”

Although the zero-tolerance and binary choice policies serve the purpose of deterring immigrants from entering the country illegally and keeping U.S.borders safe (specifically the southwest border), there are significant ethical concerns for the migrants and the principles upon which this country was founded on.

The zero-tolerance policy was appalling and binary choice would be just as awful.