As of June of this year, more than 2,000 children have been separated from their parents at the U.S. border, a result of Attorney General Jeff Session’s announcement of the new “zero tolerance” policy, or “family separation policy,” which mandates that all individuals who attempt or who have crossed the border illegally be arrested and criminally prosecuted. While the parents sit in jail, the children are left in cells at the border, alone. At Kriezelman, Burton & Associates, we cannot bear to think of families being separated, much less children from their parents, and we do everything in our power to ensure that families stay together. Sometimes that entails defending clients in a court of law while other times it merely entails educating potential migrants. This post does the latter and provides brief details about the family separation policy.
The family separation policy is precisely what it sounds like—a policy that supports the splitting up of parents and children should they be found crossing the U.S. border illegally. The concept was introduced in May when Sessions announced that the U.S. would take a stricter stance on illegal immigrants crossing the Mexican border. To emphasize the policy’s purpose, Sessions said, “If you are smuggling a child then we will prosecute you, and that child will be separated from you as required by law.” As if to justify such cruel and inhumane procedures, he further emphasized, “If you don’t like that, then don’t smuggle children over the border.”
From April 19 to May 31, approximately 1,995 children were torn from their parents.
Children who are separated from their guardians at the border are not sent to live with family members, as one might expect, and nor are they put in the care of the state. Rather, they are kept in holding facilities run by the Office of Refugee Resettlement within the Department of Health and Human Services. These holding facilities take the form of abandoned warehouses, closed department stores, and converted supermarkets.
Experts across the board have been citing statistics and findings regarding the harm such a maneuver can pose on a child’s mental well-being. Social workers, psychological experts, pediatricians, mental health groups, and human rights activists alike have been calling the policy “uniformly dangerous, inhumane, and deeply worrisome,” and anticipate that enforcement of the policy will result in long-term deleterious effects and irreversible developmental harm to those affected. Many mental health professionals agree that removing a child from his or her caregiver can create acute distress and hinder a child’s ability to cope and self-soothe in the future, which paves the way for mood conditions, personality disorders, psychiatric disturbances, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
If you have been separated from your loved ones at the border, you may be feeling hopeless, angry, and alone. These are all completely normal emotions to be feeling. However, know that you are not alone and that you are not hopeless. Our Chicago immigration attorneys at Kriezelman, Burton & Associates, have been fighting for the rights of immigrants and their families for over 40 years, and now we are prepared to fight for you. Contact our office today to discuss your strategy for reunification and possible remedies for your pain and troubles.
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