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According to Mollie Thompson of Duke University Law and a district attorney for undocumented immigrants in the US, the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement has detained an estimated 40,500 immigrant children at the Mexican American border (Thompson 233). This influx of migrant families is due to increased rates of crime, gang activity, and poverty that occurs in Latin American countries. Thompson idealizes that America has only temporarily fixed this crisis with the introduction of border detention camps and minor policies regulating immigrants who come into the country illegally (Thompson 233). The significance of these immigrants is shared with children who are taken into custody by the government. In possession of the government, minors are taken into detainment where they may not receive proper care for childhood development, as described by Janet Welsh, an adolescent evolution researcher at the University of Cambridge. As such, the issue’s circumstances are directed to a question of whether the United States government can solidify legal rights and better the living conditions of Mexican children. The ongoing crisis proposes the major political concerns surrounding immigrant children including the separation of minors from legal guardians and forced residency into disoriented detention centers.

Family Separations

Immigrant children who cross over the border with their legal guardians are often subjected to separation upon arrival. The issue concerning this separation is that children may experience a loss of legal rights and individualized care from their usual caregivers. Judge Jennifer Blasco, a judge for the United States District of California and advocate for immigrant rights, describes that in the past, this tactic has been used with Native American families. The United states’ goal was to assimilate them into American society (Blasco 8). Native American children were removed from their homes and schools on official reservations, which made them “wards of the government” rather than extensions of their parents (Thompson 219). This use of separation has translated to current society where Mexican children are left unattended for periods their guardians have an official residency. Julia Ainsley and Jacob Soboroff, of Northwestern University and frequent columnists for NBC News, explain the phenomenon of 26,000 children being separated from their parents in order to stop the influx of Mexican immigrants. During this period the DHS, formally known as the Department of Homeland Security, makes efforts to reconnect children with their parents through data tracking systems (Ainsley, Soboroff 1). The DHS tracking systems have not been used successfully as they require an extensive process that government officials have not perfected yet. Ainsley and Soboroff argue that this contributes to the ongoing crisis of separated families by giving an expose on children who were left unattended by ICE agents. An experience is described where 37 migrant children were left in a vehicle for over 24 hours, due to the DHS tracking system failing to process the information and whereabouts of their parents (Ainsley, Soboroff 2). This can be identified as a form of mistreatment due to the lack of care administrated to the immigrant children. It can be inferred that this would not have occurred if they were with their respective parents. According to Carmen Monico and Jovani Mendez-Sanivol, of Elon University Department of Child and Women studies, the reunification process essentially violates the rights of immigrant children, as stated in DHS policy. Reunification is intended to reunite children to their parents with the help of data tracking systems that have guardian’s names, phone numbers, and residence in the United states (Mendez-Savinol, Monico 45). While this process is currently being vetted, undocumented separations continue and leave the immigrant children without their biological parents during their detainment in America. This is detrimental to childhood development as a chasm is created without the presence of a parental figure. Monico and Mendez-Savinol recognize this in their research and coin the term “De facto Adoption”, meaning that the state becomes the legal guardian of immigrant children, which limits their rights as aliens. To prevent a further injustice, children must be returned to their parents to reinstate familial relationships and legal responsibilities.

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Border Detention Camps

Children in border detention camps often have traumatizing experiences due to the poor conditions that the government ignores. Immigration detention is “the practice of incarcerating immigrants while they await a determination of their immigration status or deportation”, as defined by Erika Voreh, of Emory Law International Review. While these facilities have been utilized to keep adults in holding, they may not cater to the proper development for young children. Children in these detention camps have been exposed to unsanitary sleeping quarters, lack of educational opportunities, innutritious diets, etc. (Vorhe 23). Immigrant minors who reside in these camps are essentially viewed as criminals by the government, which warrants the inhumane treatment. According to the active Secretary of Homeland Security of the United States, Elijah E. Cummings, border detention officers were not fluent in the languages that children spoke nor had the skills to administer care. Immigrants were given spoiled food and when ill, did not have access to medical professionals, (Cummings et al 45). Details of the circumstances in the camps, arise issues with the wellbeing of children. The camps lack basic necessities, which is meant to be offered to minors by the US. Without the proper foundation for development, children may not achieve citizenship. However, the DHS releases that the overcrowding of immigrants is causing these poor conditions. Until the rates of immigration decrease, the government chooses not to aid these children and leaves them virtually uncared for. This theory is described by Zolan Kanno-Youngs, a homeland security correspondent at the New York Times who primarily reports stories about HEY. These facilities created by the government were set in place to stabilize families before deporting them back to Latin American countries. As more children came over, the crisis became more severe and led to the poorly maintained camps. A study conducted by the Pew research organization, conduces that there are currently 200 border detention centers within US that house minors. Of these 200-detention centers, 43% have not been approved by government administrations. This statistic alludes to a disregarding of Mexican children, to the extent where they may not be living in a sustainable environment. With these poor living conditions in place, the welfare of immigrant minors could be compromised.


Although the government has made efforts to stop the influx of illegal immigrants, it has indirectly created negative consequences for Latin American children. To begin to reverse these consequences, the government must implement programs that will effectively reunify children with their parents. By working to eliminate separation, immigrant families will be united for the ultimate purpose of achieving citizenship. According to a study published in American Sociation of Pediatrics, which is a collaborative medical journal, a solution should be proposed where children are temporarily placed in foster or pre-adoptive homes while parents go through the process of receiving a visa (Linton, Griffin et al 29). While there is still some form of separation, parents are permitted to see children and monitor their wellbeing. This eliminates the need for border detention centers that often have low quality resources for childhood development. Therefore, the United States government has a responsibility to improve the wellbeing of immigrant children as they prepare to become citizens of the land of the free.

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