The Trump Administration’s Systematic Dehumanization of Families

Washington, DC (June 27, 2019)—The developments of the last week exemplify how the Trump administration is systematically using words and actions to terrorize and ostracize immigrant children and families, with the devastating effect of dehumanizing immigrants and violating our nation’s obligation to protect the health and well-being of all families.

With threats of mass immigration raids last week,  President Trump has used Twitter and campaign rallies as platforms to spread fear in immigrant communities. These threats are designed to attract media attention; they drive immigrant families who are members of our communities underground, and discourage other families from seeking refuge in the United States—all while mobilizing and empowering anti-immigrant and white supremacist forces. The language the President uses dehumanizes children and families, describing them as criminal masses undeserving of basic protections. Across the country, we see growing numbers of immigrant families retreat from civil society and avoid the supports and services they need and are entitled to for fear of the immigration and family separation consequences. The President’s announcement that he was putting the raids on hold last weekend was not a reprieve, but rather yet another threat, as immigrant families live in ongoing fear of mass raids that will detain, deport, and separate their loved ones.

Last week we also saw how the administration’s policy decisions are harming immigrant children and families. With reports from a border patrol facility in Clint, Texas, we have learned that unaccompanied children were held there for days without adequate food, supervision, toiletries, and other basic necessities. Legal and medical experts who toured the facility encountered children who were waking up hungry in the middle of the night, and who had not brushed their teeth or taken a bath in weeks. According to one lawyer, one three-year-old “had matted hair, a hacking cough, muddy pants, and eyes that fluttered closed with fatigue.” These conditions are not an anomaly, but rather a product of the administration’s anti-immigrant policies. In the case of unaccompanied children, the administration has deported caregivers and created barriers to children’s release from government custody by threatening relatives and others who are potential sponsors of detained children.

We are also seeing the tragic results of thoughtless policies affecting families, as the image of Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his 23-month old daughter Angie Valeria, who drowned crossing the Rio Grande River, shocks the nation and the world. These deaths are a direct result of the administration’s decision to “meter,” or limit, entry to the United States at legal ports of entry. Families with no other options are making the perilous journey across rivers and deserts to apply for asylum, and, as a result, children and their parents are dying.

CSSP stands against these words and actions that treat immigrant children and families as less than human and have immediate and lasting consequences for their health and well-being. Research has shown that children living in immigrant communities who hear about immigration enforcement actions, even if none of their family members are directly affected, experience significant fear and stress. Studies also have shown that children who are separated from parents by immigration raids experience financial instability and insecurity as well as emotional trauma. And there is broad consensus among pediatricians, child psychiatrists, and experts in child and family well-being that family detention and family separation negatively affect children’s longer-term development and emotional well-being.

 “With its bellicose threats to immigrant children and families, this administration is denying our common humanity and violating our most basic values,” stated Megan Martin, Vice President for Public Policy at the Center for the Study of Social Policy. “What we are seeing is unconscionable.”

Instead of threatening and traumatizing immigrant families, we should be protecting and promoting their safety and well-being.

About CSSP. The Center for the Study of Social Policy is a national, non-profit policy organization that connects community action, public system reform, and policy change to create a fair and just society. We work to achieve a racially, economically, and socially just society in which all children and families thrive by translating ideas into action, promoting public policies grounded in equity, supporting strong and inclusive communities, and advocating with and for all children and families marginalized by public policies and institutional practices.

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