The Trump Administration recently announced they seek to enable indefinite detention of migrants, that would be a direct overturn of the Flores Settlement The new rule is set to go into effect within the next 2 months. Migrants would be legally detained until their cases are decided – which could take years. Trump believes that this will act as a deterrent for migrant families and in turn ‘save many lives,’ so as to essentially prevent families from making the sometimes dangerous trek to the United States. Acting head of Homeland Security, Kevin McAleenan finds this new policy to aid in avoiding the Catch and Release loophole that he credits to detention limitations.
While this policy would almost certainly institutionalize and legalize imprisoning children on an even greater scale than already exists, the adverse effects of indefinite detainment are plenty. Unlike a prison sentence where perhaps a set release date is agreed upon, indefinite detention would permit an excruciating mental battle and destruction of morale among hundreds of thousands of migrants. Many migrants might never know the end of their imprisonment as the immigration courts can be quite slow and are increasingly overwhelmed. Needless to say, it can be days, months, and/or years of imprisonment bestowed upon any migrant who seeks to become a permanent resident of the United States.
Detained children often have PTSD and suicidal feelings post detainment, according to Human Rights Watch and various other human rights organizations. The American Psychological Association is highly critical of this new policy, stating:
The large majority of these children have already experienced trauma before arriving at immigration facilities, and the longer they are held in detention, the more likely their mental health will continue to suffer
Chronic stress and adversity severely effects the development of a child’s brain, especially in regards to cognition, intellectual process, judgement, self-regulation, and social skills.
- First Focus on Children: a Washington, DC based advocacy organization dedicated to making children and their families a priority in federal policy and budget decisions.
- Kids in Need of Defense: an organization that promotes the protection of children as they migrate alone in search of safety and ensuring children’s rights are upheld and respected.
- Families Belong Together: an organization that has dedicated its mission to ensuring families are together, especially reuniting children with their families. This organization contributes all its efforts to counter Trump’s separation of children from their families.
Photo by Katie Moum