Undocumented Children are Still Children

Categories: Immigrant Rights
06/13/2018
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My parents both moved to US from Jamaica, my mom came as a child and my dad came as a young adult. They inspire me everyday and have always put me and my siblings first. With the daily reminder of my immigrant family, I can’t help but watch in disbelief and disgust at the way documented and undocumented immigrants are being treated. Why does the United States treat children more like animals than humans simply because they or their parents hail from a different country? I believe it starts at the political classification of immigrants as “aliens” which is the first place we begin dehumanizing immigrants and allow for inhumane treatment because they’re “not like us.” Recently, Trump has been making plans to place children who are taken by ICE into military bases.Why should separation by oceans or made-up lines determine whether a child grows up with safety and security? Children should by no means be treated as criminals or enemies of the country, but for some reason they are.

As news resurfaces that almost 1,500 immigrant children were unaccounted for by Human and Health Services last year, immigration remains on the forefront of headlines. But with social media reposts and a lack of information the story seems to have been skewed. Here is a quick rundown of what actually happened: over 7,000 unaccompanied minors who crossed the border by themselves were placed with sponsors, about 85 percent of sponsors were either parents or close family relatives. When HHS called to check on them, 1,475 children and their guardians did not answer. The high volume of unanswered calls may be caused by the minors guardians’ not answering because they themselves may be undocumented or fear they may fear administrative deportation. Children and their caretakers shouldn’t have to hide from the government out of fear of deportation nor should they weighed down by the fear of their families being separated. But this is only part of the problem. Children are being ripped away from their parents.

Children of all ages are being stripped from their parents arms at the border, the NYTimes reported a child as young as 18- months being taken from his mother. According to a statement from Attorney General Jeff Sessions made last month, there will be a zero tolerance policy implemented that will prosecute every person that attempts to cross the border. This policy is a cruel and inhumane way to treat children and their loved ones. Even those seeking asylum and running from dangerous situations will be prosecuted as criminals and separated from their children. While studies have proven that immigrants have miniscule crime rates and are less likely to commit crimes when compared to US citizens, our government continues to pursue immigrants as if they are a threat to our society.

In addition, Betsy Devos made an alarming statement insinuating that educators could call ICE on their students. This goes against the 1982 decision of Plyer v. Doe made by the Supreme Court that promises undocumented students the right to a free public education. Although she backtracked her statement after receiving an enormous amount of backlash, the thought that someone who holds the position of the United States Secretary of Education initially held that sentiment is disturbing to say the least.

While children are being taken advantage of and their lives being torn apart, change needs to occur sooner rather than later. In order to mobilize we must first make ourselves more aware and not let these issues slip under the rug. As families are being torn apart and children are being stripped of their childhood it is important that we pay attention to their stories. We must amplify their voices and fight for those who cannot speak for themselves out of fear of deportation. By calling and writing… we will let them know were watching.

 

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Nikita Forrester is a sophomore at Cornell University pursuing a degree in Communication with a Business minor and an Inequality Studies minor. She is a member of Rotaract Club, an organization focused on local and international community service projects. Nikita is also a member of the F word which has weekly discussions about feminist issues and works on various projects throughout the semester. Throughout her time in her college, she plans to increase her involvement in social justice issues and play a larger role in planning events that happen on campus. Nikita is extremely passionate about intersectional feminism and hopes to expand her outreach to affect change in her community.