Written by Amanda Ojeda
Within a few weeks serving as the 46th President of the United States, Biden has already signed several executive orders relating to the immigration system. Among these orders is one that pertains to repairing the damage done by his predecessor’s family separation legacy.
In 2018, the Trump administration installed a “zero tolerance” policy, as an addition to the immigration system. This policy eventually led to the separation of at least 5,500 families. Today, at least 1,000 of those families remain separated.
Photo taken by U.S. Customs and Border Protection
The “zero tolerance” policy made migrant families subject to inhumane treatment at the border facilities. The news of the treatment at the border soon spread to the public, causing a rise of protests against the policy. People were furious after hearing how immigration authorities ripped children from their parent’s arms, removed the parents as children were asleep, and took the children while their parents were in courtrooms. One year after the policy was implemented, inspectors visited several of these facilities in the Rio Grande Valley, the results of the inspections were devastating. Both adults and children had no access to showers, and little access to hot food. What was even more disturbing was the sight of the children who were put in closed cells, and detainees pressing notes against their cell windows, detailing how long they have been held in custody.
“We’re going to work to undue the moral and national shame of the previous administration that literally — not figuratively — ripped children from the arms of their families, their mothers and fathers, at the border and with no plan to reunify the children who are still in custody and their parents,” said President Biden, just before signing the executive order.
Immigration experts and advocates hope for swift action in the process of implementing humane policies. Experts fear how a long reunification process could affect the mental wellbeing of these families. In a study done evaluating 17 adults and 9 children who were separated, the Physicians for Human Rights organization found that many of them showed common symptoms of trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder, major depressive disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder.
The separated families continue to bear the unbearable as the process of reuniting these families progresses. Making them eager for a solution as quickly as possible. However, there are a few challenges that this process will face. One of them being how the flawed immigration policies of the Trump administration, failed to keep the proper records of the families who were detained and separated.
A Guatemalan mother who was separated from her 10-year-old daughter on the Arizona-Mexico border says, “It’s a daily horror for us who are living without our children. It’s an endless sadness…All we want is the opportunity to see our kids, to be with them again.”
Finding these families will certainly be a challenge and as White House press secretary Jen Psaki said, the process is “going to take some time”.
Many people hope that President Biden will continue to fulfill his promise of reuniting those families. So far, with the executive order he has signed, a future of reuniting these families looks quite possible. However, the process is predicted to be long and not without obstacles. Plenty of people are glad to see President Biden making efforts to stop the callous policies that have harmed others in the past, and are hopeful for a brighter future.