The Issues Behind the Issue of Family Separation at our Southern Border

Posted by Kaylee K on Tuesday, May 29, 2018 Under: Unaccompanied Refugee Youth
Over this past week my heart has grieved seeing the news of American border officials forcibly removing children from their families at the U.S. southern border. It is tempting, of course, to post responses full of emotion; I admit, I did this a bit on Facebook. However, I also researched to find out not only what is happening, but what got us here. The trail is not straight nor is it crystal clear. But what I continue to see is that we need to recognize the people behind the news, and behind the emotional or political rhetoric, and respond as humans to humans.

I hope this tracking of information…eight key points in the journey…helps you also to see the humanity and discern for yourself the appropriate response. I kept the points short and easy to digest but provide links so that you can dig deeper into anything you feel compelled to know more about.
  1. An action can be illegal; a person cannot.
  2. Crossing the U.S. border with the intent to seek asylum is not an illegal act.;  
  3. Under the Trump administration many programs that had enabled people to request asylum from the U.S. without first crossing our borders have been reduced or cancelled altogether. (Cancellation of CAM program to assist unaccompanied minors:; Reduced numbers under Refugee Resettlement program: )
  4. While many are vilifying the Trump administration because of his often offensive language used to refer to humans crossing our border and now harsh policy implementation, the current administration is not to blame for the root issues behind this influx of asylum seekers. But it does seem that there is a lack of understanding or concern by this administration for the history of our involvement in Central America. Many of the situations Central Americans are fleeing from are a result of U.S. influence for decades under both Democratic and Republican leaders. From involvement in proxy wars, to fueling gangs, to poor treatment of refugees, we have a legacy that seriously destabilized a region and a people that Trump is now trying to demonize.
    - In the 1980s the US manipulated power structures and fought a proxy war with the Soviet Union in Central America devastating the region (hmmm…sound a little like Syria?).
    - Our contribution to the growing gangs:
  5. The US benefits from Mexico’s controlling the flow of Central Americans across their southern border and through their country. As such, our government has pressured the Mexican government to “better” manage this and has, during Obama’s administration, provided financial assistance to Mexico to manage this flow. However, we do not tie this money to any requirement for proper and humane treatment, nor do we monitor the situation to ensure such treatment is provided or to assist with such provisions. And it seems that children are paying the price for a system that is inadequate: 
  6. The numbers of lost children being blamed on the Trump administration is somewhat misleading. This is a separate issue from the children now being forcibly separated from their families at the border (see pt. 7 below). The “lost” children arrived alone, i.e., unaccompanied, and were transferred to Office of Refugee Resettlement, which vets primarily family sponsors in the U.S. to then take the children in. It does not appear that the system for vetting sponsors for unaccompanied minors has changed under the current administration. The reason for the increased concern, it seems, is that as our border patrols now actively separate children from their families they then officially become unaccompanied minors and their case is not linked to their parents. The “lost” children issue leads many to believe that our government will not be able to manage this situation for these newly created unaccompanied minors. And, in truth, that is what we are already seeing after just a few months of the enforcement of Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy. 
  7. The current enforcement of family separation has generated much outrage and a pending lawsuit from the ACLU. The law that enables border patrol to forcibly separate children from their parents when they cross our border is actually not a new law, but this is the first time it is has been enforced in this way and to this extent. In listening to news and reading articles for days to understand this situation, I’m learning that the bottom line is, it is only under the Trump administration that there is now an official policy enforcing zero tolerance for border crossers (many of whom are asylum seekers) resulting in the immediate removal of children from their parents.  and  Findings include:
    - Some families are being separated even at legal ports of entry.
    - Our system is not equipped to connect a child’s case with his/her parent’s case; meaning that the children are often separated for prolonged periods and the risk of their never being reunited is a real possibility.
    - There have been cases where a person transporting the child is a smuggler. However, while a DNA test is very quick to conduct this is not a procedure currently being used. And the current administration has been very clear that they know they are separating children from parents and that this should be a solid deterrent to discourage others from trying to cross our borders.
    - This process leaves children vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.
    - The trauma of being taken from their parent(s) can permanently impact (i.e., damage) these children; some of whom are only infants at the time of their separation.
  8. These are not animals arriving at our borders seeking asylum. Before we villainize people, we should hear their stories. Behind the rhetoric are actual lives. Our awareness matters.
    - Sofia’s story: 
    - Families and unaccompanied minors fleeing violence: 
    - Who was in the now infamous caravan? Meet the women and children:
My thoughts
Given my efforts at thorough research and being in/connect to refugee ministry for 10 years (and also working in Texas with at-risk youth), I am hoping you'll permit me a personal conclusion to all of this information...

Our country’s value-system is on the line as are the lives of thousands of children and adults when our president vilifies those seeking asylum at our border. We have to look beyond rhetoric that tells us this administration is protecting America. Based on all of my investigating, I can see that is only a small part of what is actually happening. While certainly some who try to cross our borders are criminals, as there are criminals in every population of people, we cannot punish all for a few -- that cannot be who we are.

The bottom line is that we cannot damage a generation of children and vilify entire cultures. We must stop trying to prioritize some politically-charged concept of nationalism over basic human decency or we will lose what makes this country great and what makes each of us human.
And, we certainly gain nothing in classifying any group of people as animals…in fact, in doing that we begin down a slippery slope that leads to a society that can tolerate slavery, segregation and gas chambers.

When we label people as animals, how long is it before we treat them as such? Which then actually makes us the animals.

Image: Christian Science Monitor, July 2017

In : Unaccompanied Refugee Youth 

Tags: united states  central americans  children  asylum-seekers  family separation 

Blog Authors

John and Kaylee Kolditz Kaylee founded Refugee Connect in 2008. John joined the work in 2011 as we investigated the refugee situation in Europe. But our faith and cross-cultural journeys have been a work-in-progress for many years. Much of this blog reflects that. ************************************************ We met in Austin, TX, while volunteering at a serving event at Gateway Church and have been married since 2002. Marriage, parenting and ministry all require a great deal of intentionality, humility and true reliance on God for strength, wisdom, and grace. It is a journey we are grateful to be on together. Ultimately, what matters to us is building into meaningful relationships in ways that, to the best of our ability and by God's grace, demonstrate the love and hope Jesus freely offers to us all. ************************************************ We bring both business and ministry backgrounds into our current work. John started a business in his 20's and helped build several other businesses. He has also served with churches in a variety of roles including as an assistant pastor, director of community development, and missions board member. Kaylee left her marketing career to become the global missions director for our home church in Austin, TX, then founded a local refugee ministry, and became TEFL certified (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) in order to prepare for our work overseas. We have led short-term teams domestically and internationally, and served with a variety of cross-cultural ministries. In 2008, we sensed a call to build into the church in Europe, which was also around the time when God broke Kaylee’s heart for refugees. Since then, God has continued to weave together this heart for refugees, desire to serve alongside the church, and focus on His call to Europe.

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