Please Stop Separating Families

This being a family blog I feel it necessary to say a few words about the Trump Administration’s Zero Tolerance immigration policy, resulting in the separation of children from their parents who were trying to enter this country illegally. 

First, as a sovereign nation, we must protect our borders. We cannot allow anyone and everyone to come into the U.S. without having some control over the situation. I think most reasonable people would agree on that. The difference comes in the application of the laws meant to protect our country and punish those who try to enter our nation illegally. 

The Trump Administration’s well-reported Zero Tolerance policy seeks to detain parents for prosecution, while keeping their children housed separately, sometimes taken to different states from their parents. Audio of children crying for their parents is heartbreaking. http://(

Part of the issue lies in the fact that kids can only be held for 20 days, while adults can be detained until their cases are heard in court. 

First, it is not ok to separate kids from their parents. That seems pretty clear. It also seems clear that this policy is being used as a hammer intended to deter people from making the painful choice of leaving their own country and making the risky, oftentimes deadly, choice to journey to America. If you make it completely unpalatable for people to come to America then, maybe, they won’t and border crossings will drop. Taking their kids away is a pretty big deterrent for anyone sitting in a home in South or Central America weighing whether to attempt an illegal entry into the U.S. But this just seems cruel and inhumane. 

But more to my point, my problem with Zero Tolerance is that it means zero room for nuance and discussion and zero room for compassion. And when you’re dealing with people making such a momentous and life-altering choice to leave their homes, their cultures, their extended families to come to an unknown land where they may struggle to assimilate or may be arrested, I think compassion needs to be part of the equation. 

There are many crises in other parts of the globe, some that the U.S. may have had a hand in creating. When people feel powerless and hopeless economically or face the threat or very real violence or death, people will be desperate to leave and try to protect themselves or their families. Can we blame them? The same thing happened with my family members. They didn’t enter illegally, but when it can take years to get to the U.S. legally what do we expect will happen? 

Sure, many people may claim asylum to try and stay in the U.S. or they may try to enter with children in hopes of using them as an anchor to stay. Our immigration judges need to ferret those people out. But to take a blanket approach telling everyone that asylum cases will be judged more harshly or that there is a zero tolerance policy seems capricious and inhumane. 

Look, this is an issue that has bedeviled politicians for decades. There is no easy answer. If there were, the issue would be solved by now. We need to get a grip on illegal immigration but we need to understand that behind each person trying to enter this country there is a story, a human story, and we would do well to do what is in the American experience — listen to those stories, look at those people as people and decide whether they should be allowed into the country. 

(Photo by dianeherr on / CC BY-NC)


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About Happiest Daddy

Two boys, one wife and a ton of material. I live for family and I'm one of the most blessed people you will ever meet.

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