The Realities of Immigration Enforcement
The amount of money the federal government spends on immigration enforcement has skyrocketed in recent years. It now spends more on immigration enforcement than on all major federal criminal law enforcement agencies combined. But what does all this spending actually mean for the vulnerable migrant seeking protection in the U.S.?
- To the woman fleeing her home where the police wonâ€™t protect her from her abusive husband, it means being apprehended and screened by a Border Patrol officer who has less than two years of experience and has not yet received training on immigration law. The dramatic growth in Border Patrol has resulted in a shortage of adequate supervision and proper training. The agent interviewing the domestic violence victim may not recognize her legitimate asylum claim and may erroneously return her to a potentially life threatening situation.
- To the parent coming back to the U.S. to reunite with their U.S. citizen child who was left behind in a foster home when the parent was deported, it could mean being criminally prosecuted as part of Operation Streamline for re-entering the U.S. after removal. This parent could be charged with a misdemeanor or even a felony, which would mean a long jail sentence and the inability to legally migrate in the future to be with his or her child.
- To the family traveling together, it means separation of the husband and wife immediately following apprehension. Customs and Border Protection may take the husband and put him through the Alien Transfer Exit Program (ATEP). This program would remove the husband to an area in Mexico far from where he had entered and far from the rest of his family. His wife may be returned to the area of Mexico where she had crossed into the United States, but she would not have any information as to what happened to her husband, where he will be sent to or how long it will take for them to reunify.
- To the pregnant woman fleeing a forcible marriage to her rapist who asks for asylum when entering the country, it means being held in a jail-like facility until she has a credible fear interview because of mandatory detention laws. She may be held with other detainees who have contagious diseases and she may not have immediate access to appropriate pre-natal care. Moreover, due to increased spending on enforcement and no correlating increase of spending on immigration courts, this woman could spend up to three years waiting for a resolution to her case.
- To the unaccompanied child fleeing gang violence in his home country, it could mean being detained in an overcrowded holding facility designed for adults while waiting for appropriate placement in a facility for children or with a family member. These holding facilities often consist of cement cells with no access for outdoor recreation. They have lights on 24 hours a day. Apprehended children, who are wet and cold from a treacherous crossing, may not even be provided access to showers or clean clothes.
These migrants deserve to be treated humanely when arriving to our country. The incredible amount of money allocated towards enforcement must be spent with care to ensure efficient use of government resources, adequate oversight and training of Border Patrol agents, and respect for basic human rights.
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