Santo Domingo Ingenio, Oaxaca/Mexico – Nov. 8, 2018: A Honduran man fleeing poverty and gang violence in the second caravan to the U.S. lifts a child onto a truck at dawn to ride to his next stop. (Shutterstock)
By Grantley Branch
The Declaration of Independence declared that “all men are created equal”; does this only apply to people of a certain race or white Americans? Or is it inclusive of all people? Then, if this statement about equality is true, our actions towards migrants expose the flaws in our belief system. The U.S. has a constitutional right to protect its borders and ports of entries; neglecting this right can have repercussions on our political, social, and economic infrastructure, but the migrants’ situation is a humanitarian crisis. The way the President is handling the case is sparking contentious debates. His perception of these migrants is derogatory. He classifies them as murderers and drug dealers, rather than women and children fleeing political and social unrest in their countries.
The caravans that are arriving on the U.S. Mexico borders and those in the detention center are considered migrants. There is a distinction between migrant and asylum seekers. The migrant is someone who is moving from place to place (within his or her country or across borders), usually for economic reasons such as seasonal work; they were not forced to leave their native countries because of persecution or violence, but rather are seeking better opportunities. Many of those crossing the U.S. border from Central American countries like El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, are, in fact, asylum seekers, not migrants. They would have a well-founded fear of persecution if they were to return home.
The migrants’ conditions in the detention centers are covered extensively by the media: migrants are living and sleeping in overcrowded centers, with inadequate accommodations, some even sleeping on the concrete floors; with limited sanitary facilities and limited access to medical treatment. Consequently, some die including children from illnesses that could have been prevented, if they had proper medical attention.
The separation of children from their families is a cause for concern. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced a significant increase in the number of unaccompanied children held in U.S. government detention centers. The number increased to 10,773 from 8,886, as reported by The Washington Post.
Medical groups are unanimous in denouncing the policy of “forcibly separating children,” which they note is not defined in any U.S. law. Besides being traumatic and unnecessary, the stress can damage brain development, they said.
“Any forced separation is highly stressful for children and can cause lifelong trauma, as well as an increased risk of other mental illnesses, such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder,” said the American Psychiatric Association’s Dr. Altha Stewart. The U.S. prides itself on family, Christian and moral values, but what this administration is doing to migrants is an indictment to these principles.
The migrant crisis is not only a U.S. problem but a worldwide crisis. According to the International Rescue Committee, “there are 68.5 million men, women and children escaping war, persecution and political turbulence. These are refugees and asylum seekers.” The border situation is a political and administrative nightmare, which will only get worse if the President continues derogatory comments; meanwhile, the government needs to find a way to unite children with their parents.
Grantley Branch is a student in the Chamber Coalition Paralegal Certificate Program. For details about this program, please visit www.freeparalegal.org
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