Written by Alfred Spencer
On June 19th, 2018 the world became painfully aware of the situation at the United States southern border. It came to light that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was detaining Latin American immigrants at the southern border and separating the children from their families. Children younger than five years old up to seventeen years old were being placed in immigration detention centers across the country. The places that they are being held in range from converted convince stores, juvenile detention centers, and there are even holding facilities being built on American military bases. The zero-tolerance policy that the Trump administration is supporting is not only inhumane its fundamentally un-American. The United States was founded by immigrants from around the world. By detaining people who are seeking a better life away from violence and persecution and putting their children in detention centers scattered across the country we are straying into yet another dark part of American history.
Not only is separating children and imprisoning asylum seekers morally reprehensible it violates international law. The people who are being detained are not only from Mexico and they are not gang members despite what some sources say. The dehumanizing rhetoric pushed by the President of the United States himself is contributing to the issue and making it harder for these people to get the help they need. The people being detained are from all over South and Central America. Some of them have walked months to escape the violence and uncertainty at home and only want to find a safe place to raise their families. When they reach the United States, the land of opportunity, they are met only with hostility.
There have been many reports of parents being deported without their children. As a result, we now have over 1,000 children in the United States that are going to be placed into foster homes thanks to this zero-tolerance immigration policy pushed by President Trump. Due to the public outrage over what has happened there has been a small push to reunite children with their families. This may sound like a step forward, but the families are being forced to pay to have their kids transported to them. The prices reported have ranged from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. Yet another shocking idea that is being pushed by the Trump administration and ICE officials is the use of DNA tests to track down children’s families to reunite them. This idea has set off a flurry of debate. What else could this information be used for? What about their rights to privacy? How long will they keep their DNA on record? All these questions and more need to be answered not only by ICE officials but also President Trump himself.
In my opinion there is quite a lot that we can do in the United States to address the current immigration crisis. The first thing we can do is to end the practice of separating children from their parents at the border. Separating families in such a way is wrong and psychologically damaging for the children. The second thing we could do is to revisit the US immigration policies. There are reports of people sitting at the border exposed to the elements for weeks. For a country as large and as powerful as the US there is a way in which we can accommodate those who are applying for asylum or simply looking for a chance to chase the American Dream. The third thing we can do is to stop the damaging rhetoric that is being propagated about Latin American immigrants. With a president calling them all drug dealers, gang members, and rapists it becomes harder for them to enter and live in the US. This rhetoric that is in turn propagated by news outlets creates a divide in the US. This divide then begins to impact domestic politics and makes it harder for us to find a way to help those at the southern border.
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” This is an excerpt from the sonnet, “The New Colossus”, by Emma Lazarus. It can be found on a bronze plaque inside the Statue of Liberty, the first thing that the 14 million immigrants who entered the US through New York between 1886 and 1924 saw. Since then the Statue of Liberty has become synonymous with immigration and a symbol of hope for those wanting to chase the American Dream. We cannot forget that we are a nation of immigrants nor the fact that almost every American was at one point an immigrant.