Unaccompanied Migrant Children in State Shelters

Unaccompanied Migrant Children in State Shelters

Unaccompanied migrant children refer to those minors under the age of 18 years who don’t have legal migration rights of entering the U.S. Besides, these minors cross the United States without parents or guardians who can provide for essential needs. Factors such as abuse, violence, gangs, and war force most of these minors to flee their countries and immigrate to the United States. However, their some instances where some immigrants have been identified as sex and drug trafficking victims. From the year 2012, reports show that the number of immigrant children in the U.S. – Mexican border has continued to rise (Karamouzian, Mohammad, p. 1071). This has sparked outrage among the U.S. citizens forcing the Trump administration to implement policies that can curb these immigrants and combat drug trafficking. This detention policy requires unaccompanied migrant children to be taken into state shelters after leaving customs and border facilities if there are no private institutions who can sponsor them. In this study, we will, therefore, analyze the reasons for implementing this policy and its benefits and costs to the United States government.

The detention of child migrants’ policy has been faced with several challenges from the local governments, state governments up to the federal government. At the provincial/city level, localities are falling out of contracts with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement.  Municipal councils are against the detention of immigrants in their jurisdictions. They are also backing out of arrangements with private owned detention centers.  According to reports, most cities in Texas have refrained from issuing permits for the construction of detention centers (GORDON, IAN, p. 58). At the state level, California has been against detention policy since the Donald Trump presidency. The state has banned the agreements between Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and low local enforcement. It has also rejected requests from sponsors seeking permits and contracts for their private owned detentions.

The high numbers of unaccompanied children crossing the southern border triggered the United States government to adopt changes in its detention policy in a bid of regulating what was seen as a humanitarian crisis. Border patrol agents and immigration authorities report to have apprehended more than 78,067 unaccompanied children at the southern border in the year 2018 (Perreira, and Fadnes, p. 94). This number represents more than 48% of all the immigrants crossing through the U.S.-Mexico border. The hard lining measures taken by the Trump administration are in a bid to secure the United States border. There are speculations that criminals and gangs are gaining an advantage by getting into the United States as asylum seekers/unaccompanied children. The director of American Immigration Council, Lloyd is quoted saying the following regarding the use of detention policy, “We needed to know if a kid had any gang ties or gang ties in their family — we needed to make sure that DHS had that information and that we had that information.”  Reforms on the policy have therefore solved issues related to illegal drug smuggling, fraud, and rape cases.

It is worth noting that the detention policy allows sponsors who can adopt these minors to have permits from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement. This means children cannot be handed over to illegal sponsors and end up being used as drug traffickers. The detention policy was changed to protect these minors from child abuse or other criminal activities. This is because there is a filling that the undocumented workers who are relatives of these minors may delay in picking up the minors for fear of deportation (Plant, p. 981). Besides, putting these children in state shelters helps them to go through a legal system that protects children from undergoing illegal deportation. The United States government has increased funding to the department of criminal justice to soften its work in deciding as to whether the children should be accorded U.S. rights.

The international law allows states to adopt the detention policy for unaccompanied children if all the other suitable alternatives have been exhausted. There is, therefore, several options for the detention policy, which ensures aliens follow the correct procedures before entering into the United States. One of the options is that countries should ensure minors that are under the risk of detention are kept in non-custodial placement structures as their travel rights/status are being resolved. The United States should plan for care arrangements for these unaccompanied children instead of putting them in state shelters (Unaccompanied Migrant Children Overview). Another useful option for detention is the registration of these minors through the relevant authorities. This will ensure in case of any criminal activities; they will be apprehended. Again temporary residence permits should be issued to cater to the accommodation of these children. Besides, electronic monitoring can be adopted since it will ensure the government has a record of all the activities undertaken by these minors. Lastly, the government can use return counseling measure since it will ensure children are returned to their home countries in a dignified manner.

It is important to note that carrying out reforms on this policy will bring some pros and cons. The advantage of this policy is that it creates seriousness and fear about illegal immigration on the U.S. border. Children are adhering to the correct immigration procedures before entering the United States since there is a fear of detention. Secondly, the number of illegal activities such as drug trafficking, child abuse, rape, and fraud has drastically reduced since the implementation of the policy because civilians no longer use these children for these activities. Lastly, the number of children detained in state shelters has been dropping since the year 2019. Reports show that some of the state shelters in Texas have closed down due to the lack of migrant children (Perreira, and Fadnes, p. 94). This is a clear indication that the number of illegal immigrants entering the United States has reduced, and this is a kind gesture to the economy since the amount that is spent on free health care and other essential services will start going down.

However, this policy is still associated with several disadvantages. They include; first, this policy fails to uphold human rights as required by the International law since these asylum seekers are denied their social rights as well as their political freedom. Secondly, the implementation of this policy is very costly because the government has to provide for the essential needs required by the detainees. Reports from Immigration and Customs Enforcement show that the Federal government has spent millions of money on the expansion of detention centers as well as running these facilities (Plant, p. 981). Thirdly, the policy proves to be non-effective. This is because most of these centers do not observe strict health measures. The living conditions in most centers are pathetic; overcrowding exposes most children to various infections. It is terrible to see children sharing clothes under these horrific conditions. Lastly, the whole process is traumatizing; the act of separating children from their parents and families is devastating. Some of these children end up developing mental disorders.

Due to the many shortcomings associated with detention policy, the United States government needs to forego this policy and adopt other alternative measures that respect human rights. Some options are more effective, more affordable, and abide by International law, as explained earlier in our discussion. Moreover, the Democrats have been at the forefront calling out the Trump administration to reform the immigration policy and come up with a strategy that will protect underage migrants (GORDON, IAN, p. 58). The psychological consequences and negativity emanating from detention centers force the people to question the importance of detention policy. Underage migrants are suffering from damaging health effects as a result of the inhuman and cruel life they undergo behind bars. Since the U.S government wants to withdraw the detention limit, it would mean that most of the underage migrants will experience challenges in developmental growth, stress, and trauma because of prolonged detention. The adoption of this policy has sparked outrage among many Americans as they are view racism and xenophobia as being behind this humanitarian crisis.

In conclusion, illegal migration can be very challenging in most countries due to the threats it poses. With the increasing social evils such as trafficking, rape, and smuggling, most of the immigration departments may find it difficult to function efficiently. It is worth noting that most countries have been facing opposition from civilians about the best policy to adopt that can curb illegal migration. Policies like detention are seen as one of the factors influencing hatred among many communities because most of the immigrants are people of mixed races (Karamouzian, Mohammad, p. 1071). Since it is suitable for governments to scrutinize immigrants and stop the harmful vices destroying the society, the best immigration policies that bring peace should be adopted. The United States government, therefore, needs to reform its immigration policy and come up with measures that will cherish human rights.

Work Cited

GORDON, IAN. “Children Crossing.” Mother Jones, vol. 39, no. 4, July 2014, pp. 50–63. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=96532799&site=ehost-live.

Karamouzian, Mohammad. “Trump’s Zero-tolerance Policy: Would a Political Response to a Humanitarian Crisis Work?.” International journal of health policy and management 7.11 (2018): 1070.

Perreira, K. M., & Fadnes, L. T. (2019). Promoting the health of migrant children and children of migrants.Migrant Health, 89–100. doi: 10.1201/9781351017190-10

Plant, J. (2017). Managing homeland security.Global Encyclopedia of Public Administration, Public Policy, and Governance, 1–7. doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-31816-5_2258-1

“Unaccompanied Migrant Children Overview: Processing and Treatment by Federal Agencies.” Congressional Digest, vol. 97, no. 6, June 2018, pp. 3 6. EBSCOhost,search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=129786411&site=ehost-live.

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