Policy Point-Counterpoint: Are the Trump Administration's Immigration Policies Just or Unjust for Immigrant Children in Particular and the Country in General?

Author:Anyikwa, Victoria A.

Immigration laws in the United States have always been contentious among lawmakers, but current disagreements have moved beyond lawmakers to people on the street, with political affiliations often polarizing views. (1) Much of the recent debate surrounds policies concerning undocumented immigrants, particularly the Trump administration's policies on those crossing the nearly 2000-mile border between the United States and Mexico, known as the Southern border. (2) The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) views immigration issues as human rights issues, specifically declaring many of the Trump administration's policies human rights violations. (3) Of major concern is the treatment of undocumented immigrants' children. Many of the children illegally crossing the borders have been separated from their parents and detained in overcrowded shelters and makeshift tents across the United States. (4) Indeed, the ACLU claims that more than 900 children, "including numerous babies and toddlers," were separated from their families between June 2018 and July 2019 despite a court order to end the practice. (5) Other children, already in the U.S., lose their families and stable homes through mass raids on places known to hire immigrants. (6) It is estimated that 5.1 million children under the age of eighteen, brought to the U.S as young children or born in the United States, fall into this latter group. (7)

The Centers for Disease Control's seminal research study on adverse childhood experience (ACE's) revealed that children exposed to various traumatic events--including the incarceration of a parent--are at increased risk of developing psychological and emotional problems with lasting impacts throughout their lives. (8) In a recent L.A. Times editorial, their editorial board describes the current immigration policies as embedding "cruelty as a common thread." (9) The National Association for Social Workers describes the policy on mass raids as "inhumane and an attack on immigrant families and children," (10) and The Human Rights Watch believes the Trump administration's policies are a move backwards on human rights, indicating a level of unjust or unreasonable measures in treating immigrants. (11) Are the current administration's immigration policies indeed unjust? For immigrants? For the country? Or are they a just and sensible way of controlling who enters the country, ensuring American security?

Congress, comprising both the House and the Senate, is responsible for enacting immigration laws, but has been crippled by political controversies for decades, stalling progress in immigration reform. (12) While congressional leaders debate who merits admittance into the United States, ad hoc policies implemented by presidential executive orders have been used by both the current and past administrations to curb legal immigration. Congress has continuously declared comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) a priority, passing independent legislation, but never agreeing on any one. The last successful CIR was the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act. (13) Between 2005 and2007, three versions of CIR legislation passed the House or Senate, independently, but none passed both chambers. (14) The last enacted Congressional immigration reform was The Secure Fence Act in 2006. This dealt specifically with border crossing and a call for strengthening the borders between the United States and Mexico. To date, this has not been fully completed. (15) Practically speaking, this deadlock means presidential executive order is the only method of keeping immigration policy up to date with the needs of the country.

Immigrants comprise 14 percent of the U.S. population of over 323 million people--meaning over 43 million people in the U.S. are immigrants. (16) The United States has several pathways for legal entry yet many individuals and families bypass these pathways and enter the country illegally, being deemed "undocumented immigrants," or in the words of the current administration, "illegal aliens." (17) The reasons given for illegal entry include: asylum-seeking, refugees escaping danger and hardship, and system back-logs, where millions of would-be immigrants sit on a waiting list--often time for years--to obtain a visa. Some individuals obtain temporary visas, i.e., visitors, students, skilled workers, etc., with which they are given a limited time to stay in the country. Millions extend their stay illegally, joining the ranks of undocumented immigrants. (18) Indeed, it should be noted that the majority of people in the U.S. without proper documents came here with valid visas and simply did not leave when they expired. For example, in 2017 (the last year the Department of Homeland Security released figures), 700,000 people overstayed their visas as opposed to the 300,000 apprehensions along the Southern border reported by Customs and Border Protection. (19)

Since his inauguration in 2017, President Trump has made immigration a major focus of his administration, implementing "no-nonsense" policies through the issuance of executive orders, with the declared aims of deterring undocumented immigrants from entering the United States, and preventing terrorism. (20) These policies include: a ban on individuals from specific Muslim countries; building a border wall between the United States and Mexico (and campaigning on the promise of having Mexico pay for the wall); border apprehension, during which children and families are separated and held in separate facilities for processing and deportation; and mass immigration arrests, during which ICE agents raid known workplaces for immigrants, rounding up and deporting undocumented workers. Many cases, referred to as, "rocket dockets," are deliberately rushed through the courts, giving individuals no time to prepare for their court hearings, and separating families without notice. (21) Some states, such as California, have defied these mass deportation strategies by refusing to comply with the administration's policies. These states, deemed sanctuary states (there are also several sanctuary cities, including New York City, where police refuse to aid ICE officials with mass deportation raids), are threatened with federal funds being withheld if they fail to comply. (22) The Trump administration argues that undocumented immigration has a profound effect on every single component of society, impacting hospitals in particular and the economy in general. (23) If we accept that as true, does it make his administration's immigration policies just?

Point: Immigration Policies in the United States are Unjust, Causing Severe Harm to the Mental Health of Individuals, and are a Violation of Human Rights.

To be just is to be fair and unprejudiced. The current administration's immigration policies are unjust because they are unfair and prejudiced. Human rights advocates, such as the ACLU and the United Nations, have declared that "no human being is illegal," decrying current U.S. immigration policies as discriminatory and abusive as they deny immigrants due process rights...

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