What Has Been Happening

As of 2019, there have been numerous ICE raids targeting illegal immigrants. The immigrants took up poorly paid jobs and hoped for a better future for their family. Undocumented families hide constantly from immigration authorities in fear of deportation. Recently, there was an ICE Raid on the Mississippi food processing plants which resulted in 680 arrests. Federal programs such as the 287(g) were passed and granted ICE the rights to identify and remove immigrants with no documentation. It is heartbreaking to imagine the numbers of families that are separated under the program. This separation of the undocumented families is not only unethical but also problematic for the children that were separated from their parents.

Acts That Separate Families

To understand this issue, the 287(g) program needs to be looked at more closely. The 287(g) section was passed under the Immigration and Nationality Act and influenced much of the process in which undocumented immigrants are handled. According to ice.gov, the 287(g) program received “positive feedback”, as it reduces the time that undocumented immigrants spend in ICE custody. The problem is that even though families are detained in ICE facilities as short as one week, the families are nevertheless separated in the process. The separation procedure starts when the family members are split into groups by gender, age, and family status. The program restricts the parents from seeing their kids, as their children spend their time with other children who were also separated from their family. In any circumstances, separating a family is an immoral decision and the program relies on its efficiency to take care of the problem rather than caring about what will happen to the families that are separated.

The Process Of Separating A Family

As soon as an undocumented family is arrested by authorities, the household will likely end up in an ICE detention facility, a place where undocumented families are detained and prosecuted. The living conditions of the detention facilities are horrific, as an article from the New York Post reveals how children and adults live in metal cages and sleep on the floor. In a period of 6 weeks, officials said there were 2,000 children separated from their families. During their stay, the children wait as their parents are held in custody. The custody ends when the parents receive a “tear sheet” informing them whether or not they will be prosecuted. In most cases, if the parents are prosecuted, the tear sheet will inform the parent how to reunite with their kids again. The question remains: How long will the children have to wait to see their parents?

What It Could Mean For The Kids

One of the major concerns regarding the ICE detention facilities is the mental state of undocumented children as they are separated from their parents, who are being interrogated and held in custody. What happens to the children is much more detrimental than what happens to the adults. Based on a report from the Washington Post, pediatricians and child advocates have been to ICE detention facilities and were appalled by what they saw. At the shelters, toddlers were bellowing for their mothers and the ICE staff were forbidden to comfort them. Taken from the report, it is important to consider the harmful effects of the separation on the child. According to a Health and Science article from the Washington Post, when children are separated from their parents, their stress hormones increase in their body. This could cause serious consequences, as the stress hormones can kill off dendrites and neurons. This process would lead to dramatic and long term psychological damage in young children.

What Should ICE Do Differently?

Alternatively, the parents should be permitted to stay with their child at all times. The separation of the families will leave the children with neurological problems that will cripple them for the rest of their lives. The primary focus of the problem should be the humanitarian concern in which the children deserve a safe and protected environment. At the detention facility, the only people who could provide them with such a degree of comfort and security would be their parents. Although efficiency is needed to deal with the current immigration crisis, the safety and the unity of the families are more important. While ICE’s job is to enforce national security, it should make sure families are not isolated.


This OpEd was written by U4SC Student Intern, Feng.

[Image Attribute: David Tansey]