Thousands of separated kids are shining a spotlight on US immigration policy. In early May, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Department of Justice had enacted its previously announced “zero tolerance” policy for individuals who cross the southern border illegally, warning that children who are apprehended may be separated from their family. In the past, the government has often made exceptions for people traveling with kids. This new policy changes that, and separates adults from kids once they cross the border illegally.
The Department of Homeland Security says that nearly 2,000 kids were separated between April and May. The government says more than 10,000 children are in shelters run by the Office of Refugee Resettlement.
Historically, immigrants without serious criminal records have been released from custody while they pursued asylum or refugee status. The Trump administration has moved to detain more people, including asylum seekers. Both Republicans and Democrats are distancing themselves from this policy, even as the White House cited the Bible in defending its “zero tolerance” approach to illegal border crossings. However, neither party can find common ground for a legislative fix.
This is not the first time the Trump administration and Congress have disagreed on immigration. Read about what individuals are doing to change this policy:
House Speaker Paul Ryan and other Republicans said they were not comfortable with family separations, which spiked dramatically after the Justice Department adopted a policy in April of referring all illegal border crossers for prosecution. They are mainly speaking out via Twitter and other social media and seem to be working together to find a fix for this policy. Paul Ryan also is moving forward with two pieces of immigration reform legislation.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, announced Monday he would introduce legislation that mandates keeping migrant children with their parents when they're detained at the border. The "Protect Kids and Parents Act," which Cruz is introducing this week, would almost double the number of federal immigration judges, from 375 to 750, authorize new temporary shelters, with accommodations to keep families together, and mandate that undocumented immigrant families be kept together in most cases. Cruz's bill also calls for faster processing and review of asylum cases, so that within 14 days, those meeting the legal threshold would be granted asylum and those who don't would be sent back to their home countries.
Trump said in a recent tweet that Democrats “want open borders which means crime,” as he gave them the task of changing America’s immigration laws, which he said are the “weakest and worst anywhere in the world.” The president seemed to signal that he would not back down from his administration’s position, putting lawmakers in the hot seat to make changes to the legal system.
However, under pressure from his own party, Trump signed an executive order Wednesday that is meant to keep families at the border, halting the previous policy. Trump said the order "will solve that problem" of children being separated from their parents, but that it wouldn't end his administration's "zero tolerance" policy of charging everyone who attempts to cross the U.S.-Mexico border illegally, a decision that led to the current crisis.
The House is set to vote Thursday on two immigration bills: a more conservative bill authored by Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and a compromise immigration bill. (NBC News)
Immigration has been an important topic in America for decades and it seems as though Congress is finally moving towards some sort of progressive immigration reform. While the issue of children being separated at border crossings from their parents has been resolved, many more concerns about immigration need to be addressed.
It’s up to Congress. It’s their job to make laws. It’s great that President Trump has taken action to resolve this crisis but our representatives in Congress are the ones who must create true immigration reform that both upholds the law and provides compassion towards children caught in the middle of this crisis.