The U.S. Separated Families Decades Ago, Too. With 545 Migrant Children Missing Their Parents, That Moment Holds a Key Lesson

Useful reminder. Canada, of course, separated Indigenous children from their parents in residential schools:

On Thursday, the House Judiciary Committee released a 550-page report confirming that the Trump Administration had “full knowledge that hundreds of children would likely be lost to their families forever” as a result of its 2018 “zero tolerance” policy. This discovery directly contradicts Administration officials’ repeated denials that “zero tolerance” intentionally separated families—the insistence that what happened to children was nothing more than a side effect of the decision to prosecute adults for unlawful entry.

Now, 545 children are still living with the consequences of “zero tolerance,” more than two years after its implementation. These minors still have not been reunited with their parents. President Trump has demonstrated no urgency to reunite these families and has even brushed aside concern by insisting that children were “so well taken care of” in immigration custody.

Despite the apparent novelty of this policy, this is not the first time undocumented children have had to endure prolonged family separation, lone deportation or relegation to the foster care system. About 40 years ago, authorities separated families and lost track of children. Nor is this the first time government officials have obscured such a situation—a fact that offers dual lessons for the present about how to reconcile competing accounts of immigrant treatment.

In the 1970s and ’80s, at a moment when the law numerically restricted Latino immigration while poverty and violence constrained young people’s lives in Mexico and Central America, the face of unauthorized immigration changed dramatically to include growing numbers of women and children. The Immigration and Naturalization Service responded by stepping up its enforcement efforts. This hardening of the U.S.-Mexico border, the U.S. government’s preference for refugees fleeing communism and growing desperation among migrants contributed to the explosion of the coyotaje(human smuggling) business.

Source: The U.S. Separated Families Decades Ago, Too. With 545 Migrant Children Missing Their Parents, That Moment Holds a Key Lesson

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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