“We Heard About the New Law in the United States”
When I recently received an e-mail inquiry from a European friend asking me to write a comment for the World Education Forum (WEF) website on this sensitive topic, I asked myself….”where do I begin”? The inquiry went on to add, “it had been heard that the latest law in the US separates immigrant children from their parents. They are locked in cages and guards are not allowed to touch and comfort them, according to the newspapers.”
My initial thought was…..where do I begin? After a few hours to reflect and some Internet and newspaper research, I decided to proceed! The following thoughts are mine alone and do not reflect the positions of any other person, organization, or political party!
The current brouhaha in America does not deal with a NEW LAW but reflects on very different interpretations of past practice and existing laws and follow-up implementation. Public Law 107-296 passed by our Congress on November 5, 2002 during the first term of the Presidency of George W. Bush was one of the first laws that were enacted that directly and indirectly deals with the current situation in our nation. Later, during 2008, our Congress unanimously passed a law that stated that minors crossing the border without their parents would be put into the “least restrictive setting”! President Obama in 2014 faced an escalating problem of children traveling alone and families as well coming from Central America due to violence there. These laws and policies were not used extensively even though migrant families, in some cases, were detained without the practice of separation of parents and their children unless the parents were viewed as unfit.
Fast forward to April of 2018, when the current administration through Attorney General Sessions announced their “zero tolerance” plan by which all persons not arriving at a “port of entry to claim asylum” would be prosecuted whether or not they had a criminal record. Furthermore, any minors accompanying them would be taken away from their parents. There have been an estimated nearly 2,000 minors separated from adults at the Mexican border.
Reports on the treatment of these more recently detained minor children vary tremendously and little is definitively known about this treatment or their locations of detainment in spite of speculation to the contrary!
As this is being written, our Congress and Administration are negotiating various plans to alleviate this practice as well as reform our immigration laws. This particular process of separating children from their families has received largely intense opposition by public figures and our citizenry!
I will close with the following statement from one of my professional organizations (NAESP) that offered the following through Executive Director Earl Franks on June 20, 2018:
“Protecting children and ensuring their well-being is core to NAESP’s mission and to the work that principals do as school building leaders. Every day all across the country, principals provide safe and welcoming environments for their students and work vigorously to protect children from trauma in all its forms. NAESP is deeply concerned about the crisis at the U.S. border involving the separation of families and the short- and long-term impact these actions will have on children. To that end, NAESP urges the Administration to end its policy of separating children from their parents who are crossing the border and to work with Congress to find a solution that protects the well-being of these children.”