Family Separation, Zero Tolerance, and Advocacy.

Author:Kopels, Sandra
Position:Letter from the Editor
 
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Children in cages. The images are seared into my mind. Young children, crying, held in cages like zoo animals. Like me, many people were horrified by the federal government's actions of separating children from parents who may have entered the United States without documentation. Many were appalled that the government was housing these children in warehouse-type facilities, separate from their parents.

Hopefully, by the time readers of the School Social Work Journal read this editorial, the family separation policy will be a distant memory. Hopefully, all of the children and parents will be reunited and their lives will be unaffected by these events. However, these are simply hopes. We know that the trauma experienced by parents, children, and their other relatives and friends will continue for years. And in some cases, for life-times.

We also know that some parents and children will never see each other again. There are reports that parents who did not understand English signed papers that waived their rights to be reunified with their children or that parents erroneously thought they were signing forms to release their children to American relatives (Mohdin, 2018; Ulloa & Davis, 2018). More than 450 parents have already been deported without their children (Ulloa & Davis, 2018). The government has lost track of the identities of more than 40 parents of separated children (Sullivan, 2018). How did this happen?

Zero Tolerance and Family Separation

All presidents choose a stance toward immigration and immigrants and then enforce their border policies to achieve their goals. Unlike what some people may believe, the Trump administration did not pass new legislation to mandate separating children from their parents at the borders of the United States. Instead, children were separated from their parents because of how administration officials chose to enforce existing policy.

When people from other countries enter the United States, they must show visas or other documents ("papers") to prove that they have the legal right to enter the country. People who enter with documents are legal immigrants and are considered documented because they have papers that authorize their entrance. Their immigration status entitles them to rights and benefits guaranteed by federal law.

When people enter the United States without documentation, they are illegally entering the United States and are considered undocumented. Some people who cross the border without papers do so knowingly, hoping for a chance of a better life and enhanced opportunities for themselves and their children. Others enter the United States...

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