Trump Administration Struggles To Reunite Refugee Families


After months of attempting to process asylum seekers, the Trump Administration continues to struggle to successfully reunite broken families. These refugees were detained due to illegally crossing the United States’ south-west (US-Mexico) border. This began with the implementation of a “Zero Tolerance” policy that was announced on May 7th 2018 by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Due to this, the Federal government is under court orders to reunite families that have been separated as a result of the Trump Administration’s poor planning. So far, the Federal government has been unable to reverse the disaster created by their administration, leaving children as young as a year old without parental care.

Currently, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees remains extremely concerned about the United States and their treatment of asylum seekers. UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi explained that in most cases, those seeking asylum have very legitimate reasons for fleeing their homelands. Grandi explained that many wealthy governments have employed appalling rhetoric surrounding asylum seekers in order to create fear around the numbers coming into the country. In reality, only a small number of immigrants are seeking asylum in western countries, which is incongruent with how the situation is often represented by the mainstream media. Grandi stated that “We’re not talking about unmanageable numbers moving to the rich countries… Governments have projected an image of emergency, of invasion, and actually, unfortunately many political leaders have capitalized on that to gain votes.” Previously, President Barack  Obama’s administration created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in 2012 to resettle immigrants with up to 110,000 approved places available within the U.S. These numbers have dropped dramatically with Trump’s presidency accepting to relocate only 45,000 immigrants and making substantial budget cuts.

The main concern with the “Zero Tolerance” policy was the lack of organization, analysis and future planning. When separating families, it is imperative to have a plan on how to correctly and humanely detain and process those people. Solutions should also have been thoroughly prepared to address the issue of how to keep families together instead of creating future problems where children are left traumatised and officers have no way of locating families efficiently. Therefore, even if the Trump Administration wanted to reunite these families, this job would be made nearly impossible due to poor planning. More humane solutions of handling asylum seekers may include community programs where families are kept together throughout the processing of documents and tracked throughout the use of ankle bracelets or other less intensive security provisions. It is significantly important for the government to treat these refugees with compassion as this humanitarian crisis has resulted in children being displaced with parents who have been deported.

The Trump Administration’s policy has left up to 2,300 children stranded without their families at the United States’ border with Mexico since early May 2018. The goal of the policy was to deter immigrants from illegally crossing the Southern border. This officially led to prosecuting anyone attempting to enter the U.S. illegally, resulting in the separation of children from their parents, as both groups were detained independently. For instance, children could not be put in criminal detention centres with adults and therefore were housed in juvenile penal camps. On June 22nd, President Donald Trump tweeted that “We must maintain a Strong Southern Border. We cannot allow our Country to be overrun by illegal immigrants as the Democrats tell their phony stories of sadness and grief, hoping it will help them in the elections.” Two days earlier, Trump had signed an Executive Order which stopped the separations of children from their families. This, however, did not solve the major issue at hand, which is how their administration will reunite those families that have already been separated. Court orders stated that the 102 children who were under the age of 5 needed to be reunited with their families by July 10th and those 5 years old and above by July 26th. However, the government struggled to fully meet deadlines due to issues of processing these requests. In April, the U.S. District Judge John Bates in Washington, D.C. issued a ruling for the Federal government to continue the DACA program which included taking in new applications. The program allows young adults to be both protected from deportation and given a chance to work for two-year periods in which they can prove themselves for potential citizenship. However, Judge John Bates stayed the ruling for 90 days to give the Trump Administration until August 23rd to decide whether to appeal with a better alternative for protecting the children.

As many of these refugees had legitimate reasons for seeking asylum, the “Zero Tolerance” policy was both unforgiving and inhumane. The separation of these families has only created an incredible amount of work for the Trump administration. This disastrous policy will continue to have future implications on the reputation of their leadership but also on the families that have been left traumatized by their imprisonment. These efforts to be tough on immigration will do more harm than good. They will create instability and put strain on the future relationship between the U.S. and Mexico. They will also set a bad example for other countries when it comes to peacekeeping, border control and international security, particularly for wealthy western countries. The bullying by the Trump administration will not go unnoticed and behaviours like these must end in order to achieve global peace.

Aisha Parker