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Nov 02, 2021
Over the weekend, television audiences were captivated by the gripping tale of a mother and her young daughter: Cindy & Ximena Madrid. Like most loving mothers, Cindy wanted a better life for her daughter, so she left everything behind in El Salvador to come to the United States, the land of opportunity. But instead of finding the Utopia she dreamed of, Cindy’s daughter was ripped away from her as soon as they crossed the border. The two were victims of the harsh new immigration policies set in place by the United States government.
This story is just one of hundreds from the border. Stories that we often don’t know about. The moment I heard this heartbreaking story of a mother and daughter torn apart, I knew this story could help the American public move beyond cold numbers and statistics to see the emotional core at the heart of America’s immigration crisis. I wanted the nation to see the names, the faces and the humanity of this courageous family. Cindy & Ximena’s story became the basis of Torn From Her Arms, a film that aired on Lifetime this past Saturday. OZY Media had the extraordinary honor of producing it alongside the Motion Picture Corporation of America. It is a project that we are endlessly proud to have helped produce.
I started OZY Media because I wanted to foster tough, important conversations. Conversations that would highlight injustice… conversations that would change communities from Wall Street to Main Street… conversations that would spark a call to action. Today’s Daily Dose focuses on U.S. immigration policy and the context that gave rise to thousands of migrant children being separated from their parents at the U.S. Mexico border. As we consider next steps forward as a nation and as individuals, we’d like to hear from you. Share your thoughts on how you believe we should move forward as a nation at OzyCommunity@Ozy.com.
1 - What Happened?
In May 2018, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a zero-tolerance policy for anyone caught crossing the U.S. border illegally, though previously many first-time offenders weren’t detained. That means that when families are caught at the border, children and their parents are separated — the parents are jailed, and the children, who can’t legally be imprisoned, are sent to holding facilities. During the first two weeks of the new policy, 658 children, including babies, were taken from their parents.
2 - Why it matters
The U.N. formally called out the United States for violating human rights standards over the policy, though U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley responded by pointing out that the human rights records of other member states aren’t spotless. The policy has also attracted protests in more than two dozen cities. “I can’t imagine how any American is not appalled by this,” said one protester, echoing the concerns of many others who believe the practice is a human rights violation.
MORE TO CONSIDER
1 - The process
Most children, when caught crossing illegally, are turned over to the Department of Health and Human Services, which is responsible for getting them to a sponsor, a legal relative, a juvenile detention center or foster care. But because so many children have been put into the care of HHS, a backlog has caused overstay at “border stations” meant to house them before they travel on. As of June 2, 2018, nearly 300 of the 550 children at border stations had spent more than 72 hours there. These stations often lack proper bedding or separate sleeping rooms for minors. After the children are placed in long-term care, they can go weeks without speaking with their parents.
2 - “Brutal, offensive”
So said U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw in San Diego when describing the policy of separating children and adults. Sabraw refused to throw out an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit that argued splitting up asylum-seeking families violates their due process. While administration officials have said the policy is a necessary deterrent to immigrants, that hasn’t worked: Border crossings at the close of September hit a record-high of 1.7 million migrants from around the world.
3 - Around the world
Migration experts and activists say there’s no other country that’s practicing family separation for immigrants. Even in countries like Australia, which has some of the world’s most extreme policies against illegal migration, families are generally allowed to stay together. Meanwhile, those seeking legitimate asylum in the U.S. are reportedly often being turned away from border checkpoints and told to come back when officials are less busy — and recently, immigration advocates report, they are even being physically kept from setting foot on U.S. soil, which formally triggers their right to seek asylum. In response to the US’ more aggressive stance, Mexico opened its doors to unaccompanied migrant children. However, the high influx of border crossings led Mexico to reach capacity within weeks.
WATCH ONE FAMILY’S IMMIGRATION JOURNEY
SO WHAT NOW?
1 - Biden Administration Negotiates a Settlement
It is estimated that over 3,000 children were forcibly separated from their parents during the Trump administration. The Biden administration is said to be in negotiations with immigrant families who were affected and could offer around $450,000 per person in compensation, given the lasting psychological trauma allegedly inflicted by the government. Republicans have pushed back against the idea of reparations in this instance, asking Biden to reject payment to migrant families separated at the border. (Sources: Lifetime, WSJ, CNN)
2 - The COVID effect
Although the U.S. border has stayed sealed since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020 as a public health precaution, migrants are still coming to the U.S. from all around the globe. Many of them are seeking job opportunities that the pandemic has erased. The Biden administration has had to walk a fine line as they navigate taking a more humane approach to those seeking asylum while also considering public safety amidst the coronavirus pandemic. In March of this year, President Biden urged migrants not to attempt to travel to the US border - "Don't leave your town or city or community.” Despite his harsh words, Republicans believe Biden has still been too lenient, with some Republican lawmakers criticizing Biden for admitting tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors and rejecting his proposal to send payments to migrant families who were separated under Trump’s rule.
3 - The Cost
Although the direct impact of the separation policy has not yet been fully studied, research suggests the trauma resulting from family separations can take a toll on children and parents. One study of more than 280 adolescent immigrant students in Boston and San Francisco found that longer separations from parents during the immigration process led to higher rates of anxiety and depression. Experts are also finding evidence that family separation is as traumatic as the devastation families experience in the countries they are fleeing. The intersection of mental health and immigration is rarely discussed, and amidst a larger public mental health crisis, the lack of access to care and language barriers contribute to the growing disparity in mental health care for this vulnerable group.
We want to hear from you. Please take this poll and share your take on how the U.S. can approach our immigration crisis. What are you willing to do?
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