The Trump administration is planning to implement a new rule that keeps migrant families together but keeps them in custody until their immigration status is decided.
Critics plan to challenge the new policy, with Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley calling it “large-scale imprisonment” and likening the approach to the internment camps for Americans of Japanese descent during World War II.
Since 1997, the U.S. has held to a policy established in a court settlement that children cannot be detained for more than 20 days, even while their parents wait to have their cases decided. That policy has been revised over the years.
The policy was challenged in 2014, when accompanied and unaccompanied minors came to the U.S. in large numbers. Then-Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson ordered the construction of the temporary shelters that are now a flashpoint. When challenged in court, a federal judge ruled that minors – whether with their parents or not – could only be held for 20 days.
In June 2018, President Trump signed an executive order ending family separation, meaning adults were only held for 20 days as well.
In recent months, the number of migrants flooding the U.S.-Mexico border has swelled to more than 100,000 late in the spring of this year.
Former Clinton Justice Department official and former immigration judge Andrew Arthur says this new policy is not only the best approach for the sake of national security but for the well-being of the migrants themselves.
“This is the most humanitarian decision that could be made. The number of people who attempt to undertake this journey is going to fall if they simply can’t be released into the United States. In fact, they’ll go back to the historical numbers we used to see of a few hundred of these families showing up at the border every month,” said Arthur.
Arthur cites a bipartisan report showing that two-thirds of people smuggled into the U.S. suffer physical harm and one-third of women are sexually assaulted. He says once potential migrants know they won’t be released, they’ll avoid the horrors of the trip to the border.
“It’s going to remove the incentive for parents to use their children as pawns and for smugglers to use children as pawns in order to get individuals seeking economic advancement into the United States, where they can work illegally,” said Arthur.
Listen to the full podcast as Arthur explains the full background of the child detention policy, why immigration cases are usually resolved in a couple months rather than years, what the few alternatives to the revisions actually are, and why detention centers are actually the safest place for migrants to be while their cases are dealt with.