Jim Denison: Separating Children at the Border: 3 Options

The immigration crisis unfolding on the US-Mexico border continues to dominate the news. Nearly two thousand children have been separated from their parents since a “zero tolerance” policy was adopted for those entering the US illegally.

One facility in McAllen, Texas, houses two hundred such children. According to a migrant rights worker who visited the facility, one girl “was so traumatized that she wasn’t talking. She was just curled up in a little ball.” A quiet boy was seen clutching a piece of paper that was a photocopy of his mother’s ID card.

The head of the American Academy of Pediatrics visited a similar shelter in Texas, where she saw a toddler crying uncontrollably and pounding her little fists on a mat. She had been taken from her mother the night before and brought to the shelter.

Staff members gave her books and toys, but they weren’t allowed to pick her up, hold her, or hug her to try to calm her. As a rule, staff are not allowed to touch the children in the facility.

A “zero tolerance” policy

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen told reporters last night that the “vast majority” of children being held in detention facilities were sent to the US alone by their parents. She stated that this issue “has resulted after years and years of Congress not taking action.” Others blame the Trump administration for the crisis.

My purpose is not to fix blame but to consider practical options. Let’s begin with some history.

In 2005, President George W. Bush launched Operation Streamline, a program that referred all unlawful entrants on the border for criminal prosecution. They were imprisoned, and their trials were expedited for the purpose of deporting them. However, exceptions were generally made for adults traveling with minor children.

The Obama administration detained illegal border crossers as families together in Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody rather than criminal detention.

Last month, after Homeland Security reported a 203 percent increase in illegal border crossings over the past year, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a “zero tolerance” policy directing Homeland Security officials to prosecute all cases of illegal entry into the US. Few exceptions were made for parents traveling with minor children.

The administration says it must separate children from parents because of the Flores agreement, a longstanding federal court settlement that bars the government from jailing migrant children. However, critics claim that nothing legally requires migrant families to be separated while their cases are being pursued.

Federal law requires a lengthier process for those seeking asylum. The children of these adults are separated from them for a much longer time. Complicating the situation even further, some adults reportedly pose with children who are not their own. And smugglers use rented or kidnapped children as cover.

As noted, nearly two thousand children have been separated from their parents and placed in mass detention centers or foster care since this policy began. More than one hundred are younger than four years old.

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Source: Christian Post