In April, the Trump administration issued a Zero-Tolerance Policy for criminal illegal entry into the United States.
This was a renewed commitment to criminal immigration enforcement by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and as part of the announcement, he directed federal prosecutors to prioritize the prosecution of criminal immigration offenses.
This policy applies to all adults crossing the border, regardless of whether or not they have children with them. As a result, since the justice department can’t prosecute children, they have begun separating them from their parents.
“If you smuggle illegal aliens across our border, then we will prosecute you. If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you and that child will be separated from you as required by law. If you don’t like that, then don’t smuggle children over our border. It’s not our fault that somebody does that,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a speech after implementing the new policy.
Nearly 2,000 immigrant children were separated from their parents from April 19 to the end of May, according to the Department of Homeland Security— which is about 46 children per day.
The parents of the children are being prosecuted, and if convicted, could be deported. So, parents could be deported back to their home country while their children are still being held in facilities in the United States. Photos have surfaced of an immigration processing center in McAllen, Texas, (the largest processing center in the country,) of children sleeping on mattresses on cement floors with mylar blankets.
Another center, Casa Padre in Brownsville, Texas, which used to be Wal-Mart, is currently holding almost 1,500 immigrant children.
Children are also being housed in a ‘Tent City,’ a series of tents enclosed by chain-linked fences topped with barbed wire, in Tornillo, Texas. Photos of the facility were taken on June 18, including pictures of dozens of boys walking between tents, lined up outside portable toilets in the facility, and playing soccer outside.
While the tents reportedly have air conditioning, the temperature in Tornillo this supposed to reach 106 ℉ on Friday.
Currently, 360 children between the ages of 13 and 17 are estimated to be living in ‘Tent City,’ but up to 4,000 could be kept there in the future, according to U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas, who represents the area.
Many parents don’t know where their children are, or when they will be reunited with them. After they are held in processing centers, the Department of Homeland Security transfers the children to the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). They spend time at an ORR shelter before they’re placed with a sponsor in the United States, approximately 85 percent of which are parents or relatives who were already in the country. Children who have no parents or relatives in the country spend more time in shelters while a sponsor is found, according to the Washington Post. This means that children could be living in a country where their parent has already been deported.
The harsh new policy of separating children from their families is being used to try to deter immigrants from trying to cross the border, by making them fear being separated from their children.
Party affiliation and political preferences aside, here at The Everygirl, we believe that tearing children from their families is unacceptable, and we are doing everything we can to stop it.
Here are four things that you can do to take action, too:
1. Call Congress
Calling your representatives and clearly expressing disapproval for the Zero-Tolerance Policy is one of the simplest ways to get your voices heard. If you haven’t called a representative before, (or if you don’t even know who your representative might be), you can find them here. When you call, it’s best to be as specific as possible by knowing exactly what you’re calling about and what bills to mention. Make sure to only call the representatives for the district where you live, as they need to hear from their own constituents, who are the ones who vote them into office, and have the power to vote them out.
There are many organizations you can donate to to help better separated family’s situations, and in many cases, to help their voices get heard.
- The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES): RAICES is a nonprofit that provides free and low-cost legal services to underserved immigrant children, families and refugees in Central and South Texas.
- The Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights: The Young Center provides Child Advocates for immigrant children to advocate for their right and best interests.
- American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU): The ACLU helps by protecting civil liberties.
- Target’s Baby2Baby Registry: This registry donates essentials like diapers, wipes and shampoo directly to immigrant children.
3. Sign a Petition
Signing a petition can help use your voice to not accept the current situation at the border. There are many going around the internet, but here are three you can start with. All of them are addressed to the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen.
4. Stay Informed
With the Trump administration’s war against the media and “fake news” being claimed at every article and news segment, it can be tough to figure out the truth, and who’s to blame for the current situation. Staying informed on border separation by reading articles by reliable newspapers (many of which now provide fact-checks and proof against what politicians are saying), can help you know what’s going on, and ensures that you’re not being distracted from what’s really happening.