In yet another attack on migrant families, the Trump administration has unveiled a new regulation that would allow for the indefinite detention of migrant families and their children at the border and would lower the minimum standard of conditions in these facilities. The rule replaces a decades-old agreement, the Flores Agreement, which limited detention to 20 days and created a mandated level of care for detention facilities. The rule affects families with children as well as children apprehended crossing the border as unaccompanied minors.
The administration is using this purposeful attack on children and families as a tool to dissuade future asylum-seekers. Let’s be clear – while Trump calls this policy change “deterrence” it’s little more than government-sponsored cruelty which continues to separate families and strip dignity and humanity from migrant children and families.
These families are fleeing violence and poverty and deserve the opportunity to present their claim for asylum without being subjected to further trauma and distress while held in detention.
Detention presents serious mental and physical health threats – especially to children. This week the administration also reported that it will not offer vaccinations to migrant families in holding centers ahead of this year’s flu season. Three children have tragically died of influenza while in detention facilities on the Mexican border this year. The administration is holding families in facilities that have been widely-reported as overcrowded, unsanitary, and dangerous and denying them access to basic medical care.
We know that even short-term detention is traumatic to children. Adverse, traumatic experiences have far-reaching physical and mental health impacts. It’s clear that children and families who have already endured violence and persecution would be harmed even further by this policy.
The International Institute of Buffalo will continue to stand against regulations that extend the suffering inflicted on families at the border. It is inhumane to separate those fleeing violence and poverty and subject them to dangerous detention centers. Now more than ever we need to recognize our shared humanity and fight for policies that do not put migrants and asylum seekers in further danger.