With thousands of families separated, President Trump's administration has faced much public outcry
For weeks, national news has extensively covered the story of family separation at the southern border between the U.S. and Mexico, complete with heart wrenching tales — and photos — of children being taken from their parents.
The policies leading to the current immigration crisis were launched under President Barack Obama in 2014, when an unusually high number of border crossings were occuring, according to statistics from U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The Obama administration's policy detained immigrant families for as long as it took to pursue due process, complete review of the cases and deport them.
Under President Donald Trump, however, it's differed in that the numbers of immigrants coming to the U.S. from Mexico and South America have reverted to the historical norm: unauthorized immigration is far lower than in the early 2000s. Prosecuting immigrants for illegal entry into the U.S. is nothing new, nor is detaining families, nor is the occasional separation of families — for instance, families might be split if one parent was carrying drugs. What is new is the wholesale separation of families that’s occurred since April, an inevitable outcome of a "zero-tolerance" prosecution of parents crossing the border illegally, according to the Trump administration. Between April 18 and May 31, nearly 2,000 children were separated from parents.
“Essentially, what the U.S. government said is for the crime of crossing the border, your children should be taken from you,” said Wade Munday, executive director at Tennessee Justice for our Neighbors. “After public outcry rose to such a point the inherent injustice couldn’t be ignored, the president’s executive order said that for the crime of crossing the border, we can detain you indefinitely and eliminate due process and the right to a trial. That is entirely un-American.”
Through his work with Tennessee Justice for our Neighbors (JFON,) a non-profit that provides affordable legal services to immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers and advocates for them, Munday believs Americans need to focus on productive solutions to immigration issues — ones that don’t separate children from their parents.
“What the U.S. needs to do is create a clear path to DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), increase the number of immigration court judges and create more public defender positions,” he says. “These people are coming to our borders seeking help. I see no sign there’s any effort to reunite these families, but in this administration, there’s so much that’s hidden from the public eye.
As a result of the outcry, on June 20, President Trump signed an executive order to keep children from being separated from their parents at the border, while maintaining his “zero tolerance” policy against illegal immigration.
Middle Tennessee has not been immune from the uproar, and on June 26, hundreds gathered in Nashville’s Fannie Mae Dees Park to protest the situation.
How you can help
Together Rising is a nonprofit that gathers donated funds for organizations that assist various groups or needs. It is currently raising money to reunite families who were separated at the border. They'll tell you exactly where your funds are going, and right now, it's to develop a screening and referral system to identify parents who were deported without their children, to hire attorneys and paralegals to represent families and children as well as sending money to the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services in Texas, among other legal advocacy groups.
International Rescue Mission
International Rescue Committee is a nonprofit that offers emergency and long-term aid to refugees and has been working to support separated migrant children by connecting them to legal and psychosocial services. Donations to the organization will help to connect children to these services in states all over the country.
Tennessee Justice For Our Neighbors
Tennessee Justice For Our Neighbors is a chapter of the national organization and constantly accepting donations in order to provide legal assistance to unrepresented immigrants in Tennessee. They also hire legal assistants when needed to represent immigrants. Recently, the organization hired a bilingual legal administrative assistant to serve people searching for a safe home in Middle Tennessee.