The Effectiveness of Zero Tolerance Policy to Children

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Migration has been a part of humanity and animal kingdom since the beginning of time. Assuring their survival and quality of life. However, as time has passed and civilizations have been established, the rules of migration have changed and restricted those migrating. Nowadays, countries discriminate your migration status based on nationality, the color of skin, gender and religious beliefs. The ever changing rules immigration have been the source of both joy and devastation. The most current policy in place to determine the migration status is to separate families, specifically children from parents at the border upon illegal entrance to the United States of America. The question within this policy is whether or not such separation is beneficial to stop illegal immigration or if it is just deterring families from being together. This separation may not be deemed effective to the influx of migration, it is far more harmful to those entering the country illegally and has had no effect on deterring immigrants from obtaining their residency through legal channels.

The policy that began the epidemic of family separation was established by the Trump administration during his second year in office. The general act of separating parents from children has been occurring prior to entering the second millennium. The zero-tolerance policy is one that is meant to criminally prosecute adults that are apprehended crossing the border. (Jordan 2019). The policy did overturn and evolve with the Trump presidency, where over 3,000 children were “forcibly separated from their parents” within one year (Jordan, 2019). Those that were criminally prosecuted needed to be transferred to a prison and as government law states children are not allowed to be housed in prisons, therefore children were taken and placed in “short-term” foster care or in government facilities for an uncertain amount of time. The time the children are kept is dependent on the resolution of their parents’ immigration case or a “sponsor” - a relative in the U.S. that is able to provide temporary care. Half-way through the year, the facilities were reaching capacity, holding over 11,000 children (Lind, 2018). As the numerical statistics were released an organization; American Civil Liberties Union, released a report claiming children suffered a variety of abuse at these facilities. The ACLU also filed lawsuits to terminate the policy and reunite parents and children. While the ACLU remained successful, thousands of children are yet to be identified and reunited with their families.

America has always been deemed the “the melting pot” of the world, however, it has one of the strictest immigration policies in the modern world, deeming it necessary to separate children and parents. The current (last two decades) influx of immigration, unlawful immigration to be specific, has had the American nation in fluster. While to common knowledge the concision of policies was formed after the tragedy of 9/11, the oppression of immigrants has only furthered their desire to enter the country. In effect to deter such behavior, the administration has forcibly removed children from their parents in order to “punish” those entering the country without a legal premise regardless of them seeking asylum. In refusing immigrants refuge of any kind; war, political persecution, survival, etc. the immigrants in fear of losing everything trespass the border in hopes for a better life. The basic principle of curiosity is apparent here: when a teenager is forbidden from going out, the more they are inclined to go out. This principle is applied to most situations in life where one is told what to do and what not to do. However great the immigrants' survival need is to pursue residency within the states, the manipulation of curiosity and the glamorized American dream drives them to enter illegally. Separating those immigrants from their children does nothing to the plan of immigration and the deterrence thereof.

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“I do not want to children to be taken away from parents” a direct quote from the current president. Although his desire to prevent children from being separated from their parents upon illegal arrival to the U.S., that is precisely what is happening. Children are being held in unknown conditions in undisclosed locations (government facilities not foster care), there have been reports of verbal, physical, and sexual abuse occurring to children ranging from infants to teenagers (Stahl, 2018). The border protection clause has even made it possible for the United States judicial system to process and criminalize toddlers and prosecute them in court. Children who are not familiar with the language-much less a world without their parents- are being tried in court and forced to consent to laws and deals they are not cognitively aware of. The traumas that these children face are irreversible, without making an assumption of what happens behind closed doors in these facilities and foster homes, the mere severance from their parents can have perpetual effects, panic, fear, sense of hopelessness and helplessness, depression and grief (Wan, 2018). The children are losing their life-line and their sense of reality is uprooted and replaced with concrete walls and aluminum blankets. Destroying a child’s reality is not a basic right under the constitution nor should it be necessary to punish a parent for wanting a better life for themselves and their family.

When examining the zero-tolerance policy the morality is what sets it apart as a rather cruel and ineffective punishment to those seeking a better life. Impacting the way we think of our country. However, there are far more implications and facets to the issue, the economic perspective. Extensive research and analysis have demonstrated that obtaining a visa is far more beneficial for both applicant and government. Generating a visa or granting a visa, not the same as granting residency (which would generate more profit), puts money into the government. Those applying are required to pay a fee of $325 per application (VisaGuide). If the immigrants were more motivated and guided through the proper channels of entrance the application fees alone would be substantially beneficial for the treasury. The immigrants that have been detained (children alone) if applied for a visa would have generated $975,000. This is only including the children detained. However, detaining immigrants bares a significant resemblance to managing and financially supporting a prison. The ICE detention facilities that are also referred to as “tent cities” have included the cost of “housing” an adult per night and per capita, roughly $200 (Urbi, 2018). That costs reflect only the adult cost, not the family-plan or juvenile fee, the “family-plan” is estimated at $775 per night and a child is reduced to the number of $139. With the average guest list at roughly 51,000 people amounting the total cost of detaining immigrants at $10,200,000. If the economic status and implications are what is most concerning to some, the cost of housing and immigrants is impressively greater than allowing immigrants to live and pay taxes. Assessing whether or not the zero-tolerance policy is effective has far more value in the morality of the policy however the necessary monetary value associated with the illegal immigrants has significant power invalidating the policy.

Seeking asylum and refuge is one of the leading factors of illegal immigration. Most aliens come from Central America, the nucleus of the war on drugs and the infamous cartels. The president has remained adamant on the status of denying the acceptance of refugees. Whilst this particular restraint leans towards the refugees from Syria and the Middle East, it also applies to those escaping the equally as detrimental cartel wars. To exemplify what could be a reality of The United States, the comparison of the European Union is necessary.

Most policies adapted into the constitution are meant to protect the integrity of the country and its constituents. These policies are here for the protection of those living in the country, however absurd they may be. Many will challenge the inadequacy of this policy by insisting on the violence associated with a great influx of foreigners. Citing the violence of the Syrian refugees hosted in the varying European countries. The devastating attack in Paris, southern France, Belgium, and Germany, all solicited and claimed by the infamous terrorist group ISIS. The dangers associated with the indetermination of refugees is far greater a risk to the country and its civilians than the humanitarian goodwill afforded to refugees. The consequences and aftermath faced by the European Union are of great concern to those in Congress in the United States. The horrendous attack of 9/11 has left many skeptical of the good nature of foreigners, scrutinizing every aspect of immigration in hopes to prevent another tragedy. Although I grant that there has been an influx of violence in association to accepting refugees rather than peace, I still maintain that the negation of acceptance of refugees raises a question of isolationism and superiority. The increase and evolution of violent acts can be linked to the immigrants but is more commonly associated to the number of people immigrating, the more people in an area the fewer resources and survival needs are allocated. In adapting the zero-tolerance policy and accepting refugees regardless of origin, gender and the socio-economic background will help dilute the concentration of people. Taking refugees under our wing is not only inherent but it is stated in the constitution. Under the Refugee Act of 1980, an amendment to the constitution, it has granted “permanent and systematic procedure of admission of refugees” (American Immigration Council). It is a legal obligation of the country to accept and process immigration rights to those that seek asylum regardless of nationality. In essence, the border policy is “breaking the law” in arresting and separating families due to criminal processing.

The separation of children from their parents in order to process them as criminals for trespassing the border has been deemed ineffective and cruel. The cruelty and psychological damage forced upon the children as they are put in a separate housing unit in order to “bathe them”, “entertain” them or “distract” them form the arrest. However, they are held for an indefinite period of time or even relocated to a foster family or another facility. The economic effect of detaining parents and children has a detrimental effect on the national debt treasury, summed up to upwards of 10 million for detention. As a capitalist nation, the costs of granting visas, which include the retention of fees rather than the loss of money better allocated to education, homelessness or medical research. Illegal immigration will never be 100% preventable, no matter the severity of policy change it can be decreased and discouraged. In adapting to the original act of 1980 and accepting refugees and granting them residency the tax income increases and therefore also the decrease of alien residents. Families are meant to be together and not searching and scouring to find each other.

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