US President Donald Trump achieved somewhat of a victory this week when the Supreme Court decided that it was within his right to restrict immigration in the name of national security. This decision is in reference to the travel ban on eight, predominately Muslim, states, causing outrage across the globe earlier this year.
Trump took to Twitter to celebrate his victory, tweeting ‘Supreme Court upholds Trumps travel ban. Wow!’ In reality, however, the Supreme Court did not agree that Trump could enact a ‘total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,’ as he suggested as a candidate in 2015, nor did they agree to the initial travel ban, but only the third, less harsh agreement.
This small victory comes after a week of chaos concerning reports of family separation upon illegal immigration at the Mexico-U.S. border. There is no law stating that families should be separated at the border, yet the policy enabling this separation states that any adults crossing the border illegally will be prosecuted and sent to federal prison, making separation of the child inevitable.
Although this should only apply to illegal immigrants, there have been reports of immigrants being separated from their children despite presenting themselves to ports of entry to ask for asylum, therefore following the US law.
It is unclear how long this practice has been going on and how many families have been separated so far, yet estimates say that between October 1, 2017 and May 31, 2018, at least 2,7000 children have been split from their parents, in the last six weeks of which there were reportedly 1,995 cases. This last six weeks interval coincides with the Trump’s administration announcing its plan to enforce a ‘zero tolerance’ policy for migrants at the Mexican border in April, effectively making any immigrant attempting to enter the US an illegal immigrant.
Reports of family separation sparked outrage. Accounts tell that border control agents, labelling the children ‘unaccompanied minors’, and sending them to government custody or foster care, often did not tell parents where they took their children or if they would see them again.
This points to the flawed system under which this process occurs. Democrats have especially taken issue with the rudimentary system to keep track of who belongs to whom, as children and parents are separated. Some reports say that children and parents receive entirely different identification numbers, making it unclear how they could be reunited and the Texas Civil Rights Project heard that some families were merely photographed together to keep track.
Trump, in a surprising U-turn, signed an executive order last week to end the separation policy. This executive order has, however, immediately been criticised as very vague and does nothing against the fact that families could still be held in detention, nor did it say anything about the reunion of separated families.
The lack of moves towards ensuring reunification is consequently seen as the biggest issue. Anne Kuster, of New Hampshire said, ‘this has just been heart-breaking. We have no plans for the reunification of the children that have been separated from their parents.’
A Seattle-based immigrants rights group has therefore sued on Monday on behalf of detained asylum-seekers in Washington State, who had been separated from their children. This comes after attorney generals from 17 states sued the Trump administration over their policy of family separation.
Trump was quick to point towards Congress to find a real solution, also blaming his predecessors George W. Bush and Barack Obama as having caused this issue. Although it is a policy built on an already existing one, it was the Trump administration that decided all immigrants crossing the border were illegal immigrants, therefore making family separation necessary.
The Republicans are divided over Trump’s hard-core immigration policy, yet Democrats openly oppose it, visiting detention centres across the country and California Democrat Jackie Speier even convinced the DNA-testing company 23andMe to donate kits to help reunite families. Immigrants rights groups have experienced an outpouring of support, as people for example donated $7.5m to one small non-profit, Refugee and Immigration Center for Education and Legal Services (Raices).
None of this should have come as a surprise really, as Trump’s immigration policy follows his ‘America First’ policy, primarily protecting American workers and businesses. However, the Trump administration fails to see the importance of immigration to America which, after all, is an integral part of its history.
Statistics have shown that immigrants add 1.6 trillion dollars to the economy each year. Furthermore, it has been shown that immigration has been incredibly important for innovation and entrepreneurship in the US, as more than half of the billion dollar companies in the US are founded by immigrants. Meanwhile, over 50% of all Ph.D’s are earned by immigrants or foreign students, and 76% of new patents involve immigrants.
As heartless as these American immigration policies may seem, they are not too far removed from policies experienced by immigrants coming to Europe. Only a couple of months ago the Windrush generation in England came to experience Theresa May’s ‘hostile environment’ towards immigrants, and in Germany the government is tip-toing on the line of collapse in unresolved issues about immigration.
This increased recent paranoia towards immigrants makes it seem as if it is inherently abnormal. In fact however, migration and immigration is an integral part of human history, an important part of the modern world as such, so integral in fact that it is surprising it has amounted to such paranoia and protectionist attitudes towards culture, society and country.