The Trump administration’s reversal of its family separation policy for immigrants crossing the border illegally is less than meets the eye, according to a June 22 opinion published in the New York Times.

Sonia Nazario

“On Wednesday, President Trump said in an executive order that he planned to keep families together by jailing parents and children together during the course of their immigration hearings.,” writes Sonia Nazario, an author and board member of Kids in Need of Defense.

“Most immigrant children apprehended with their families on our southern border are from Honduras, El Salvador or Guatemala, three of the most violent countries on earth.”

Nazario continues, “prisons are bad for kids, even if they have their parents with them.” More humane and cost-effective options for enforcing immigration laws are available when families are involved, she argues.

Research shows that the effect of detention can be especially damaging to kids who have previously experienced violence in their lives, Nazario says. Incarceration retraumatizes those who are already suffering.

“About six in 10 girls are raped on the journey north. Thousands upon thousands of Central Americans are kidnapped each year in Mexico; girls are prostituted, boys are enslaved, migrants are killed, their organs are harvested.”

“Most immigrant children apprehended with their families on our southern border are from Honduras, El Salvador or Guatemala, three of the most violent countries on earth,” she says. “Many children know of, or have witnessed, a family member or friend murdered by the gangs that control their neighborhoods. They force boys to join them or be killed. They force girls to have sex with them or be killed.”

Even as they flee violence in their home countries, the dangers do not abate, Nazario says.

“About six in 10 girls are raped on the journey north. Thousands upon thousands of Central Americans are kidnapped each year in Mexico; girls are prostituted, boys are enslaved, migrants are killed, their organs are harvested. (This is the journey that President Trump on Thursday said was like “walking through Central Park.”)”

Nazario says the conditions migrant families face in American detention centers are harsh. “These are not places where we should want more children to go.”

“Law and order can go hand in hand with humanity. It’s the American way.”

Instead, she says the government should expand on the success of a 2016 pilot project that used caseworkers to monitor immigrant families, under supervised release, while their cases were pending. Utilizing that approach, Nazario says, nearly 99 percent of immigrants showed up for their hearings.

Other alternatives to prison confinement include the use of ankle monitors, voice-recognition software, unannounced home visits, telephone reporting and GPS tracking. All of these approaches, Nazario says, are more cost-effective solutions and less harmful options.

“Law and order can go hand in hand with humanity,” she says. It’s the American way.”

You can read the full commentary, There’s a Better, Cheaper Way to Handle Immigration, at The New York Times.

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