What follows is the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities’ statement related to the U.S.’s new “zero-tolerance” immigration border policy, which resulted in nearly 650 families being prosecuted between May 6 and 19 alone, with the number expected to rise. The Alliance understands that children from prosecuted families are likely being separated from their parents under the new policy.
The administration has to fully understand that criminally prosecuting and separating families that are traveling hundreds of miles in hopes of a better life is not only morally wrong but will result in the necessary expenditure of federal resources to address the impact of compounded traumatic experiences on young children. We know, based on research, that children have better outcomes when they stay safely with their families. In fact, children experience “psychological and neurobiological effects associated with disrupted attachment to their biological parents.”
Parents are vital to the lives of children, and supportive, caring relationships can help mitigate the negative outcomes associated with childhood adversity. National policies should be encouraging and supporting the connections these children have to their families, not breaking them apart and causing unnecessary and potentially long-term trauma to children.
Forcibly removing children from their families is antithetical to our nation’s strong advocacy for family values. According to a Washington Post article, children held by the federal government spent an average of 45 days under government care before being placed with a sponsor, either a parent or other adult relative living in the United States. In recent testimony, Health and Human Services officials, the federal agency responsible for caring for “unaccompanied alien children,” the label that the U.S. government gives children who are separated from their parents at the border, confirmed that they had lost track of nearly 1,500 children who previously had been placed with a sponsor.
The Alliance calls on the administration to immediately halt the separation of families as a deterrent to those seeking to immigrate to the U.S., because of the traumatic and long-lasting repercussions on children. Instead, the Administration and Congress should work together toward ensuring that during the processing phase, children are kept with their families and not unfairly traumatized by the federal government’s actions and policies. In the long term, our nation should focus on immigration reform that provides a path to citizenship for law-abiding immigrant families, and especially, recognizes that families, many of whom are seeking asylum from the trauma of violence and unrest in their home countries, are safer and more stable together. Policies that reflect the sanctity of the family unit, will ultimately serve the United States both in terms of our national values and our fiscal future.