The Trump Administration’s well-publicized policy of splitting up families who illegally enter the U.S. has supposedly stopped. The basic idea behind the policy was to discourage those crossing the border by arresting all those involved, including those seeking asylum and bringing children. Because children can’t be kept in criminal custody, they were taken from their parents and cared for, hopefully temporarily, by the Department of Health and Human Services. Would splitting up families at the border result in fewer of them coming?
It’s believed there are two ways to slow or stop the flow of immigrants into a country. That’s by ending whatever may be pulling them into the new country and what’s pushing them out of the old one, according to an article in the Washington Post by Anna Oltman. Safety, security and employers willing to hire immigrants may pull them into a new country while a civil war, crime or political upheaval pushes them out of the old one.
The administration’s theory was to lessen the pull into the U.S. by increasing the cost in coming to the U.S. — in emotion, time and energy — because if you were caught illegally crossing the border you faced criminal prosecution. If you had your children with you they would be taken from you while your criminal charges were being processed.
Oltman says whether these kinds of efforts deter immigration is difficult to measure. There can be many factors a person or family will think about when they decide to flee one country for another. It’s hard to state how one thing impacted how or why a decision was made. She claims researchers are finding that deterrence efforts have only a weak impact on reducing unauthorized immigration.
Interdiction and detention practices appear to reduce the numbers of those seeking asylum, especially over a long period of time. But these policies cost not only the asylum seekers, but also the countries who choose to use these methods. Australia spends almost ten times as much holding asylum seekers in offshore detention centers than they would spend if they allowed them to live in Australia while their status was being determined.
Family separation to deter unauthorized border crossings lacks a clear record of success. In 2017 a family separation pilot program was tried in El Paso, Texas. It was followed by an increase in the number of family crossings. It’s unknown if one thing led to another, but it’s hard to say the pilot program discouraged entries if their numbers increased.
History has shown that deterrence doesn’t so much stop migration as it does push it in a different direction. After an unprecedented number of migrants died in 2014 while trying to get to Europe by sailing across the Mediterranean from Africa, the European Union sent fewer sea patrols to try to discourage this migration by making it more dangerous. The result was that these ocean crossings decreased slightly while overland crossings through Eastern and Central Europe increased sharply.
As developed nations have made entry more dangerous and more costly to families through border controls and physical barriers, immigrants are more likely to hire human traffickers to help guide them to their destination.
Instead of allowing asylum seekers to more easily have access to immigration and appellate courts and letting them plead their case, countries are doing more to physically prevent immigrants from entering countries and filing asylum applications. Family separation is meant to be painful and punish immigrants for entering illegally. That doesn’t necessarily mean the flow of asylum seekers will decrease any meaningful amount.
If you or a loved one lives in Fayette County, Kentucky, or the surrounding area, and you have questions about seeking asylum, about immigration law in general or need representation in an immigration matter, Carman & Fullerton can help you, whether you speak English, Spanish or another language. Your future and that of your family is at stake, so contact us today.