An Update on Family Separation at The Border


“The Wall, US border, separating Mexico from the US, along Highway 2, Sonora Desert, Mexican side” by Wonderlane is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Eloise Gordon

The History of Separation at The Border

Separating a child from a parent is one of the worst things that one could do, both to parents and children. Yet, it is still done quite often, especially towards immigrants coming to America. Before Donald Trump took office as president, there were hundreds of children being separated from their parents at the border with little fanfare. Children were shuttled around the U.S. while their parents were either deported or detained. Very few records were taken regarding how to contact parents and where parents were located. This problem only increased when Trump took office in 2017 and established the “zero tolerance policy.” Before the zero tolerance policy was put in place, people were only deported if they commited a crime. Now, the zero tolerance policy makes it so the Department of Justice has the right to criminally prosecute all suspected illegal border-crossers for illegal entry, even those who crossed for the first time and even if it means separating a child from a parent in the process. 


The Staggering Numbers

According to the ACLU, between October 1st, 2017 and May 31st, 2018 at least 2700 children were separated from their parents. After several months of extensive searching, all of these families were reunited. However, in January 2019 after months of fighting from the Trump administration, they finally revealed that even more children were separated –  5,500 to be exact. Researchers have estimated that around 2/3 of these families have been reunited, but there are still plenty of families that have not. 


Impact on Separated Families

It is impossible to understand the full scope of what these families are going through unless you have been in their situation, but there have been some important events that that can help people to understand a little bit. In June 2018, Marco Antonio Muñoz, an immigrant from Honduras, strangled himself to death in a detention center after getting separated from his three year old son. Other parents who have not committed suicide have developed other problems, both mental health and physical. Some include depression, TMJ (jaw pain), PTSD, anxiety and more. Parents have also had to make difficult choices on behalf of their children. Parents who have been deported have been forced to face the decision of having their kids sent home or having them stay in America with no parent. These are just some of the struggles that people have gone through. 


Where We Are Now

As of December 21st, 2020 there are still 545 parents separated from their children due to parents being kept in places that are not easily accessible. The government has wrong names for people and have kept minimal records on whereabouts. Although family separation is still happening, it will continue to be marked as an important moment in history and as a contributing factor to Joe Biden’s win in the 2020 presidential race. Luckily, Joe Biden has promised to halt unjust and inhumane border enforcement and suspend prosecutions of asylum seekers for illegal entry and reentry. Prosecutions of asylum seekers has been a big cause for why so many children are being separated from their parents and if Joe Biden stops this, it has potential to have a big, positive impact. 


How To Help

With Joe Biden’s upcoming presidency, there is a lot of hope regarding lowering the amounts of separated families at the border. However, there are still many immigrant families that are still suffering. A big part of why New York City is so special is that we have such a high population of immigrants. In order to help protect the immigrants that live in and out of New York as well as help reunite immigrant families you can donate to Border Angels, The Florence Project, Freedom for Immigrants, KIND, Project Corazon, RAICES, El Refugio, Save the Children and more.