Zero Tolerance or Zero Humanity: Trump’s Immigration Policy Dividing Families and Opinion

John Moore – Getty Images News – Getty Images

Ever since Trump rose to political fame, it has been no secret that his anti-immigration stance forms the core of his agenda. As US president he has repeatedly linked undocumented migrants to crime in the country, paving the way for his “Zero Tolerance” policy. The policy has meant that at the US-Mexican border, immigrants illegally crossing into the States have been subjected to the criminal justice system for prosecution. The processing of immigrants prior to proceedings has involved detaining adults and separating at least 2700 children from their families. Whilst parents have been sent to detention centres, minors have been placed in rapidly overcrowding shelters or into foster care indefinitely.

The implementation of these brutal laws is a stark contrast to the “Catch and Release” policy adopted by previous governments, such as the Obama Administration. The previous approach allowed for all migrants who were free of a criminal history to be safely returned to their country of origin. In contrast, Trump’s presidency has seen countless children, and parents alike, being traumatised from their family’s separation. The policy has not only dehumanised migrants who have been fleeing violence and seeking a better life in the US, it has also allowed the Republican government to send a strong message of deterrence to families oversees considering the move.

However, demonstrations and resistance at the southern border have been growing, with the UN declaring that Trump’s policy “may amount to torture.” What’s more, we have also seen handout footage from the Border Patrol showing fenced in enclosures housing migrant children, as they sleep under space blankets for warmth.

John Moore/Getty Images News/Getty Images

John Moore/Getty Images News/Getty Images














What does Trump’s U-turn really mean? 

The cover of TIME magazine with Donald Trump and the toddler crying as border patrol searches her mother

The cover of TIME magazine with Donald Trump and a toddler crying as border patrol searches her mother

Recent history illustrates that Trump rarely caves to criticism surrounding his anti-immigration policies. Take, for example, his proposed ban of the entry of Syrian refugees into the US from Muslim-majority countries back in January 2017. Despite the global backlash, with governments from London to Tehran condemning the proposal, the Trump Administration aimed to avoid judicial scrutiny by rewording the proposed policy numerous times.

Therefore, it comes as a huge surprise that in an attempt to defuse the political crisis, Trump has signed an executive order to end child separations. Although this reversal order aims to clarify the treatment of migrant families yet to arrive at the southern border, what is the outcome to be for families that have already been separated?  Federal agencies responsible for prosecuting and detaining illegal immigrants have been plunged further into confusion, with there being no unified system to re-unite the thousands of families that have been divided by the “Zero Tolerance” policy to date.

Another important factor to recognise about the crisis is that the reversal order fails to acknowledge that the “Zero Tolerance” policy was just one of the many means by which the US Homeland and Justice Departments have been attempting to restrict the number of immigrants entering the country. For example, under Federal law all asylum seekers were previously entitled to a case review by an immigration judge. However, this right has now been revoked. Moreover, those individuals fleeing from criminal and domestic violence as they cross the US-Mexican border have now been excluded from protection.

With the US Navy allegedly planning the installation of new detention centres in Arizona, Alabama and California, we are no closer to a solution for this problem – a problem that has not only torn children from their parents at the most desperate of times, but that also categorically contradicts the “family values” the Republican Party claims to so reverently uphold and defend.

Hana Mahmood | Comment Editorthumbnail-hana-e1502348579604





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