Family Separation at the US Mexico Border

Since the year 2000, the number of immigrants attempting to illegally cross the border has increased greatly. So far our presidential administrations have been fighting to reduce the amount of illegal immigrants that are in our country, but as we switch constantly back and forth between Democrats and Republicans, or the left and right and some people refer to it, the ability to set forth a strict plan to stop illegal crossings and create permanent systems through laws has become quite difficult. With no new systems being put in place to accommodate how many people are trying to enter the US, border patrol agents have resorted to separating children from their parents at the border and are processing them separately to try and make processing occur more quickly.

Families being separated results in children being accepted into the country while parents get sent back to their home country, children coming across the border on a green card with their parents as infants or toddlers only to be sent back to their home country which they know nothing about due to never becoming full US citizens by age 18, as well as children going missing with no proper records being kept as to where they’re sent while their parents are being processed and let into the country or sent back. This issue has been on the rise since early 2000’s with a spike beginning in 2010. Policies need to be updated and new systems put in place to stop the effects from becoming worse. However, before any solutions can be possibly considered, we need to think about our country’s history and how our border control came to be what it is today.

Since 1904 government watchmen have been posted at the border to stop anybody trying to come across the border, but it wasn’t until 20 years later that they decided to start assisting those attempting to come into the US illegally and get them on the path to become residents and/or citizens. Our US Border Patrol is a government formed group that began in the year 1924 as a way of preventing illegal border crossings while also using humanitarian tactics to provide help for those wishing to come into the country. The government quickly realized too many people were able to cross the border illegally due to agents not being allowed to leave the immigration inspection stations to go patrol the border and apprehend those who were crossing. As a result, the government assigned military troops to wander along certain sections of the border and send those who got caught crossing to the inspection stations to be detained, processed, and either accepted into the country or sent back to their home land south of the border (BP History). Since this very early time of the government implementing military into our border control’s system, the policies that exist to keep our border in line have slowly expanded over time.

The expansion of our country’s policies includes better training for border patrol agents that allow them to go out into the field and the country to put military personnel on assignments regarding the country’s more pressing manners, the allowance of all vehicles and personal baggage to be searched at the border when coming across to make sure nobody was being smuggled illegally across the border by someone who was already allowed into the country, as well as detain and hold people at the border for extensive amounts of time without even beginning the processing and search procedures which are typically conducted and determine if somebody may enter the US. Border patrol agents have stated that it’s a constant battle between being humanitarian to help those coming across the border and being defensive to protect our country and its citizens from any danger that could be trying to make its way over the border (Business Insider). One of these dangers that our agents must focus on a lot is drugs and the gang violence that comes with these drugs.

Over the years through drugs becoming more desired from these poorer countries, the amount of gangs working for these drug smuggling groups has increased as well south of the US border. This increase has caused gang violence levels to spike in places like El Salvador and Ecuador, leading to women and children to fear for their lives and seek asylum in the US to protect their families from any death threats or other threats that may put them at risk. This topic has recently been brought into the spotlight more than it has in the past with other presidents due to the entrance of the Trump Administration in the white house. Since Donald Trump’s election victory back in 2016 he’s focused on many things both within our country and outside of it. Perhaps one of the biggest situations that he’s been handling here in 2018 is illegal immigrants coming across the US/Mexico border into our country. First and foremost, immigrants crossing the border unknowingly is dangerous and a cause for concern because if we don’t know who’s coming across the border than we have no way of knowing if their intent is to harm the country and its people or not. In an attempt to stop this issue, or at least reduce it, President Trump created a “zero tolerance policy” which is designed to increase prosecution charges on those caught crossing the border illegally (Human Rights Watch).

In addition to this for prosecutions to occur and for those caught to be processed, agents have been ordered to separate the parents/families from the children travelling with them. When Trump put this order into place, there was a huge outcry from the people who thought the policy was completely wrong because of the way it tore families apart. A few months later in July 2018, Trump signed an executive order stating that all children and families are to be reunited immediately and that no more families are to be separated at the border. Despite this executive order being signed by the President himself, families are still being separated at the border with upwards of 3,000 children not being with their families currently. In a special CNN Breaking News Report on June 18, 2018, Trump falsely accused democrats as being the reason families were getting separated and the border while openly admitting that despite not thinking families should be separated at the US/Mexico border, he believes the zero tolerance policy in its entirety is the correct solution to the issue and will allow separations to continue. These separations have caused a ton of issues, including the three that are being looked at today.

Children can’t be found anymore once it’s time to be reunited with their parents. Yes, you read that right. After the parents have finished being processed and are either accepted into or denied access to the US, it’s time to be reunited with their children. However during the separation process of families, proper records aren’t being kept of where the children are being placed during the time of holding. This makes it extremely difficult to track them down and reunite them with their parents. Often times the children get placed into the foster care system or sent to live with family that’s already in the US, but with no records kept if their parents are sent back to their home country, they may never get to see their children again due to improper and insufficient record books. For some of the children placed in the foster care system immediately, they can get deported later on in their life back to their home country if they never become full citizens or permanent residents of the United States. This creates a whole other problem entirely because most kids come across the border at such a young age that they know nothing about their home country, nor do they have any way of connecting with any family they might have down south in order to not be homeless the second they get deported and kicked out of the US.

For those being deported, the US government is responsible for helping them get back to their home country in regards to transportation. However having this transportation is never immediate. Those deported get placed in immigration holding cells for days, weeks, and sometimes even months or years. Several of the deportees were interviewed by the Associated Press while they were in holding and a few different inmates during the interview about how an officer had told them, “this is what you come here for: to suffer”(Kanstroom 8). These officers are making it very clear to those being deported that they are lesser, shouldn’t be cared for, and don’t deserve to be treated as human beings. These places of holding, with these horrible officers only gives a glimpse of what it will be like for the deportees once they get sent back to their home countries.

Once deported, the US government doesn’t help those involuntarily leaving the country find a job or place to stay once they’re back in their home country. Not only does this put those leaving into extreme poverty and make it extremely difficult for them physically when they have no clue where they are, where to go, and in some cases don’t even speak the language; but as you can hopefully imagine it has a large impact on their mental health too and can severely harm them psychologically.

What is happening through deportation of those kids who never became full citizens, whether they had the chance or not growing up, has slowly become a daily occurrence for the US government. For a 3 year old it’s traumatic enough being separated at the border from their parents. As humans, we are nurtured by our parents from day one and it is partially through that nurture that we learn how to deal with things in the real world, even just the little things like how to use a spoon. One example of this was not a deportation back to Mexico or South America, but still had the same effect as it has on those deported from the US to that continent and its countries. A 26-year old man raised in the United States was found guilty for possession of cocaine. His punishment wasn’t jail time or a fine, his punishment was deportation. He came to the United States as a very young child and has only ever spoken English and lived as an American. However the government only saw that he came from Haiti and decided to send him back there where he, “found himself living in a tent” amongst thousands of other Haitians in extreme poverty. In an interview he stated that he, “wouldn’t wish Haiti on my worst enemy… I’m used to being treated like a human being, but a human life has absolutely zero worth in Haiti” (Kanstroom, 8).

This young man, got sent back to a country that he didn’t know anything about when he could’ve gotten jail time instead. In his eyes, he was a citizen, everything he had known his whole life was an American life within the United States. In an instant, all because he got mixed up with the wrong crowd, his life did a 180 and he was left with nothing but a sad life and a permanent banishment from the US. This is just one example that shows the big physical effect that deportation through illegal youth border crossing can have on a person. To the government, as an adult you should know about your home country and it’s okay to be sent back there if they see fit. But to those adults who came into the country as infants or young children and never knew they hadn’t gained full citizenship growing up, you’re mentally left very vulnerable and placed in a state of panic and fear since you have no clue where you’re being sent to or what you’re supposed to do when you get there. After a child is deported, it might leave the parents regretting their decision to come to the US in the first place, they very well may feel a lot of guilt and as though they’re responsible for their child being deported. But, why did they come to the US in the first place?

Looking at the facts parents are responsible for helping their children gain citizenship and can play a major role in being guilty of getting their own children deported as adults. However, we have to wonder, is the government partially responsible for those children not becoming full citizens as well by not always providing all the information parents need to start their children on the path of citizenship? I say this because from interviews and firsthand accounts, all these parents know how dangerous their home countries are and show that they’ll do anything to give their child a chance in the US, whether they get in or not. One mother from El Salvador stated that, “[The] laws say that a person who crosses [the border] is a criminal. It’s more criminal to let your children starve to death. If I have to lose my life, at least I wanted to try rather than let my children die of hunger” (Kanstroom 8). This mother is one of many who voice their desperation for getting their family across the border. They know that their home country is in extreme poverty and full of gang violence everywhere you look. Many families become so desperate for food they often sell their children to the sex trade both knowingly and unknowingly, as well as into the drug cartels. Other families might not pay a certain bill for a few months because they can’t afford it; in response they get death threats in the mail for both them and their children. This fear of starving to death and/or being killed is what drives these families to take the long and often dangerous journey north to the US border in hopes of gaining asylum or citizenship.

One of the most common dangers that these immigrants are faced with on their journey to the border is dehydration due to the high heat and humidity levels that last all day. The dehydration causes the children, as well as the adults to vomit, faint, and experience extreme forms of heat exhaustion. This dehydration has become a huge concern for the first responders of the communities immigrants are passing through. Ambulances fill up their trucks with large amounts of water bottles early in the morning, and pull over on the side of a road to start handing them out to people and try their best to keep everybody hydrated on their long journey. According to several news reports, people in large groups will jump onto the back of moving semi-trucks until you can barely see the metal edges above the wheels. This poses a huge threat as you can probably imagine. One incident that occurred was a middle-aged man fell off of one of the trucks and it is believed that he may have fallen under the truck, followed by being run over and killed (CBS News). CBS interviewed several at the accident sight asking if this death changed their mind about going on the journey and how they feel about what took place. One women reported that before even going on the journey they knew the risks and the dangers so this man’s death didn’t change her mind about going on this journey. In addition to that she stated how, everybody on the journey begins to feel a bond and as though they’re a family and so they felt for the man whose life was lost on the journey but will continue on fighting in order to get as many of them as they can across the border and to a better place.

All of these deaths and injuries that occur along the immigrants’ journey whether it’s of someone they barely knew or their own family member, it creates a conflicting issue for them mentally. They feel sad, depressed, and hurt when someone dies as we all do when someone we know has passed. But unlike most deaths of natural cause, it can be much harder for those on the journey since they have to watch the tragic death of those being run over by vehicles, hearing their screams and bones be crushed, until all you hear is traffic again. Some people may even compare it to being in war. You can’t unsee someone dying, you can’t not remember what it sounded like when it occurred. When you watch someone die, it changes you psychologically and you’ll never be the same person you were again. But at the same time, many of the immigrants have already traveled thousands of miles from where they began, and knew the risks before they even started on the journey. Because of these two factors and the issues that face them back in their home countries they know they can’t let those deaths stop them and that they must continue on and try to reach the border where they may seek help from the US and try to become citizens and give their families a better life. So what do all of these causes and effects mean and what’s the point of this whole paper?

As we’ve seen throughout this paper, one the way to the border, my don’t make it. Whether they get injured, killed or simply decide to turn back, out of the millions crossing, thousands don’t make it. As for those who do make it many don’t get in. In addition to this, while they’re being processed and waiting to find out if they can get in, they’re separated from their children without it being required. This leads to improper keeping of records and many not being reunited with their families ever again. For those who do get accepted into the country, they often get deported years later, especially those who came across as young children because they never knew they had to become full citizens or they were never given the chance to be citizens. With deportation comes struggle and physical suffering once they’re sent back to their home country as well as from the officers while in holding. Finally from all of this, there’s a large psychological effect that all the different aspects of the journey have on each person that takes it. They witness death, they struggle, pass out, and get treated as though they aren’t human beings al because of the way they decided to come into the US and cross the border.

All these things make them think and view the world differently than they used to and changes them in a bad way mentally. Sadly right now there are no solutions that can help the situation with the USA’s current presidential administration. But to all those who have read this paper, whether you know someone who’s come across the border on a similar journey, been deported for being placed under similar circumstances, or if you were born and raised in America, I want you to think about this for more than a second. If you are an immigrant I want you to know that there are Americans who do support and want to help you, even if we can’t right now. And to those who are Americans, think about this issue, think about what these people are having to go through and how they’re being treated. They are all humans and deserve to be treated as such. Show your support through your votes, that put people in a position to decide what happens to those coming into our country. It’s not a proper solution, but it’s all that can be offered right now and is a good starting point because it’s our votes that begin the decision making process and decide how we take care of immigrants and who we end up allowing into our country or who we send back to where they originally came from.

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